SCOTTISH ministers have so far spent more than £2.2million on consultants to help with their troubled shake-up of the country’s care services.

Social care minister Maree Todd revealed the figure in a letter to Holyrood’s finance committee showing one pound in seven so far has gone to outside experts since 2021.

Ms Todd also snubbed the committee’s request to give evidence to it later this month and refused to provide it with an updated price tag for the National Care Service (NCS).

Humza Yousaf has likened the NCS to the creation of the NHS in 1948, arguing it will harmonise standards of care Scotland-wide and improve staff terms.

However councils fear it is a centralising power grab, while unions are worried about jobs.

MSPs have also said it appears a very heavy-handed way to raise the standards of adult care in the few homes not up to scratch and could prove a blank cheque on costs.

MSPs had demanded a revised financial assessment by May 12 after telling Ms Todd last month they were becoming “increasingly concerned” about the final price.

READ MORE: MSPs 'increasingly concerned' about cost of SNP flagship care reforms

Ministers predicted last June that the NCS would cost between £644million and £1.26bn by 2026/27, but experts have wanted that fails to account for recent runaway inflation. 

The Government has also repeatedly delayed a preliminary vote on the Bill to set up the NCS - it is now due after the summer recess - adding to the likelihood of higher costs.

“We are becoming increasingly concerned at the lack of information available on the financial implications of the Bill,” MSPs said, asking Ms Todd to give evidence on May 23.

However, in a reply today, the social care minister rejected most of the committee’s requests. 

She said it was “not usual” to provide a revised financial memorandum until after Stage 2 of a Bill -  and she was still unable to say when Stage 1 would be completed. 

Ms Todd said she expected “more certainty” around the NCS after talks with “key partners and stakeholders” over the summer, leading to more clarity on the costs.

“I therefore consider that it would be more helpful to wait until after those discussions have concluded to provide a single update to the Financial Memorandum,” she said, promising to do so at least four weeks before the Stage 1 debate and vote.

She added: “In line with this position, I do not feel it would be helpful to give evidence to the Committee at this stage, but I will be happy to do so once we have provided the Scottish Government’s response and update to the Financial Memorandum.”

The Herald:

She did however provide a breakdown of NCS spending in 2021/22 and 2022/23 showing ministers have spent £14m, including £11m on staff costs and £2.2m on "consultancy".

Earlier, Ms Todd told Holyrood’s health committee the delay to the Bill reflected stakeholders being “very keen for us to put a little more meat on the bones” of the scheme, which has often been criticised for being too vague.

She admitted she would need to improve communication on the positives of the NCS.

READ MORE: SNP's Michelle Thomson 'no confidence' in NCS cost plan

She said: “I think this pause does offer us an opportunity to put a little bit more meat on the bones and for people to understand better what the ambition is and what the detail around that ambition is, and how it’s going to look.

“I think it’s such a different way of doing things that it’s been a little bit hard for everybody – I’ll admit it’s been a little bit hard for me to get my head around in this new portfolio.

“So I think this pause does give an opportunity to get a bit more detail, a bit more clarity, a bit more understanding, and to be very clear.”

She said she had to do a “better job” of explaining that the NCS would be the “answer to many of the concerns” around social care in Scotland.

On the costs, she added: “If there’s going to be a period of pause and engagement and possibly some further change to the way the Bill is, I think it makes sense for the updated financial memorandum to wait until those changes are woven in before we update it.”

Scottish Tory social care spokesman Craig Hoy said: “This is another example of the SNP missing a deadline, which they are all too fond of doing.

“We know that they are trying to kick their reckless plans for a National Care Service into the long grass, rather than doing the right thing and ditching them altogether.

“Maree Todd – and her predecessors as social care minister – have kept their own colleagues on the finance committee in the dark and they will rightly be asking serious questions as to why this deadline has been missed.

“This is another bitter blow for the SNP’S National Care Service.

"They should divert every penny of the £1.3bn earmarked for it into councils, which are far better equipped to meet the local care needs in their area than SNP ministers.”