Scottish Government projections suggest it cannot afford to pay for public services in their current form, according to the Stephen Boyle, Auditor General for Scotland.
Audit Scotland said reform is urgently needed to address budget shortfalls of more than £1 billion over the coming years.
The warnings are outlined in a new report from Audit Scotland called “The Scottish Government’s workforce challenges.”
The Auditor General’s report focuses on employees across the Scottish Government and its “associated public bodies.” It excludes local government employees.
The report said pay costs for NHS, central government, police, fire services and further education were £13.4 billion in 2021-22.
It said recent pay deals exceed the Scottish Government’s public sector pay policy and that £1.7 billion more than initially planned was agreed in pay deals for 2022-23 and 2023-24.
These rises are locked into future budgets and are making it harder for the Scottish Government to manage pay costs over time, the report said.
“Since the Scottish Parliament was established, the Scottish Government’s workforce numbers have increased significantly – from under 150,000 FTE in 1999/00 to over 245,000 by 2022/23. An increase of around 65 per cent …” said the paper.
“The Scottish Government needs to act quickly to deliver services differently. But it needs to support its workforce to manage this change, rather than simply doing more with less.”
The report said the devolved Scottish public sector workforce employed over 450,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff in 2021-22, and is a significant element of public sector expenditure, accounting for over £22 billion of annual spending in 2021-22.2
“This is equivalent to over half of the Scottish Government resource budget for that year. Of this, 212,000 FTE work in local government, such as teachers, social workers, and staff who provide other local government services …” said the report.
“Based on Scottish Government data, over 240,000 FTE staff work in services where the Scottish Government directly sets policy and is the main source of funding: that is, central government, police and fire, further education, and NHS services.”
Stephen Boyle, Auditor General for Scotland, said: “Significant reform of the public sector – including its workforce – is needed to protect services over the long term.
“That means better workforce planning and wider changes to how staff work within and across organisations.
“An approach to reform purely focused on controlling workforce numbers will not address workforce pressures and is unlikely to balance the public finances.”