THE Scottish Government ended last year with a record underspend, despite repeated complaints from the SNP administration about Westminster austerity cuts squeezing its budget.


Ministers underspent by almost half a billion pounds in 2013-14, according to a final out-turn report lodged at Holyrood the day after MSPs left for the Christmas recess.

The government had £444 million left over from its £34.5bn budget last year, or 1.3 per cent of the total, the first time an underspend has exceeded £350m since the SNP came to power in 2007.

The underspend is usually less than one per cent.

Although the £444m will still be available for use this year, a large underspend is often seen as undesirable, as it means public services missed out unnecessarily on better funding.

The biggest factors in the last financial year were a £165m underspend in the £3bn education and lifelong learning portfolio, or 5.5 per cent of the budget, and a £102m, or four per cent, underspend in the £2.6bn infrastructure portfolio, then being overseen by Nicola Sturgeon.

The justice portfolio was underspent by £92m, or 3.6 per cent of its £2.5bn budget - at a time when sheriff courts were being close to save money.

Tory finance spokesman Gavin Brown MSP said it was rich for the SNP to complain about cuts while sitting on funds of nearly half a billion.

He said: "Last year, they moaned in every speech about not having enough money and how austerity was holding them back, yet they didn't spend what they had.

"No wonder this report was released at the quietest time of the year."

Although elements of the underspend were previously reported in assorted government accounts, it was not until they were brought together in December's report that the full total was made explicit.

A Government spokesman said: "This report contains no new information.

"It simply brings together budget and out-turn information already laid before the Scottish Parliament and published in the audited accounts of the bodies that make-up the Scottish Administration.

"The report records an overall underspend of less than 1.3 per cent."