Swinney’s tax strategy and legislative plans pushed back because of election

John Swinney will not be able to publish his revised tax strategy and legislative programme until after the pre-election period, due to rules governing the impartiality of civil servants.

The First Minister had hoped to release a number of Government documents and strategies before Holyrood breaks for the summer recess at the end of June.

But the pre-election guidance on the political impartiality of the civil service means these will have to be published after the election on July 4.

The Scottish Parliament is due to reconvene after recess on September 1.

Hate Crime and Public Order Scotland Act
Holyrood is due to break up for summer at the end of June (Jane Barlow/PA)

One of the affected documents is the programme for government, where ministers set out their legislative plans.

Mr Swinney previously described this as “central” to decision-making around “energy, on oil and gas, on reform of the health service, and on taxation”.

Another of these would be the First Minister’s revised tax strategy, along with the medium term financial strategy.

Also affected is the energy strategy, which includes a proposal for a presumption against new oil and gas exploration.

The rules mean no more of the Government prospectus papers for Scottish independence – known as Building a New Scotland – can be published in the pre-election period.

In a written response at Holyrood, Mr Swinney said: “The permanent secretary wrote to me on May 27 outlining the impact of this guidance on the Scottish Government’s planned business.

“This advice means that during the restricted period which extends until July 4, strategic policies due for publication, including the programme for government, the medium term financial strategy, the Scottish Government’s draft tax strategy and the energy strategy and just transition plan, should be deferred.”

A letter from John-Paul Marks, permanent secretary to the Scottish Government, was also published.

He said: “Consistent with the Scottish civil service code and the published guidance, civil servants should sustain the proper functioning of the current government and delivery of essential business; continuing to uphold the highest standards of propriety, integrity and impartiality in this pre-election period.

“This is part of the usual arrangements to provide assurance that as ministers you are operating consistently with the appropriate guidance, and I can confirm this is the approach being taken across all four nations.

“I consider there to be a clear case for deferral of strategic policies due to be published in the pre-election period, given this could influence the General Election.”

The letter stated that the programme for government had been scheduled for the week beginning June 10, and the financial strategy documents on the week beginning June 20.