BEFS overview: Scottish Government Draft Budget 2024-2025

BEFS Director provides a brief overview of the Scottish Government draft Budget 2023-2024.

The Scottish Government published its draft Budget 2024-2025 on 19th December 2023 with details across all portfolios, including that of Historic Environment Scotland within Constitution, External Affairs and Culture.

Last year it was noted by the Scottish Government that we were living in, what were referred to by the Deputy First Minister as, “the most turbulent economic and financial context most people can remember”. The mood music has not changed tempo in the intervening year, and it is of note that SPICe’s initial overview is titled, In the bleak midwinter. Challenging times and difficult decisions (for Cabinet Secretaries and others) remain.

This overview highlights a few headline figures which may be of interest across the breadth of the existing built environment but we suggest that all those with a detailed interest explore the document in full before drawing any more definitive conclusions. Please also note that this is explicitly a one year budget – perhaps understandable in challenging times, but fails to support the many sectors suffering due to repeated one-year budgets.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES): the budget fails to draw any clear link between Net Zero and sector (present in the previous two iterations) which is surprising given the rest of the budget’s emphasis in this area.  An extract from the overview reads as follows:

“Our continued and increased investment in Scotland’s culture and heritage will improve the resilience and sustainability of our culture sector and, in tandem with our crossGovernment public service reform activity, will support our publicly funded culture bodies to deliver high-quality services, sustainably and equitably, that are fit for the future. We will continue to support the culture sector to deliver highly skilled jobs, successful businesses, and thriving communities. We will work with delivery partners to promote equity of access to our world-class collections and heritage assets and opportunities for cultural and creative participation.” (p.98)

The total operational cost forecast for HES in 2024-25 is £129.7 million, an increase of just over 13% on the previous year’s budget. The budget as stated, suggests an income generation of £63.5M. Based on the evidence below, and with continued uncertainty around cost-of-living impacts on visitor numbers, and rising costs – this may seem a touch optimistic.

The most recent HES Annual reports covering times impacted by covid are as follows: the Annual Report for 2021-2022 income is listed as £22.3M (almost £20M short of the expectations set within the Scottish Budget in 2022-23, as can be seen above), and still 67% down on 2019-2020. Published the same day as the 2024-2025 budget we have the Annual Report for 2022-2023 where commercial income is listed as £49.7M – almost matching the forecast above. We can only hope that the modelling for 2024-2025 proves as accurate.

Over previous years there was a significant increase in Government funding to HES (in 2022-2023 around 25% on 2021-2022 – from £55.9M to £70.1M), last year the increase was a more modest 3.8% overall, and this year sees a 2% increase. Positive in these difficult times, but significantly below inflation.

Level 4 data spreadsheets details HES Capital in the same way as previously (with an 11%  reduction from the prior year), “Investment towards restoring, enhancing and conserving our HES Properties in Care and associated visitor facing facilities across Scotland. Capital funding for corporate infrastructure.” With the uplift specifically to “support an increase in essential maintenance.”

The description of running costs is detailed as follows, “Staff and operating costs including conservation of estate to protect and promote Scotland’s historic environment. HES is the largest operator of paid visitor attractions in Scotland as well as the lead body for enabling and delivering Scotland’s Historic Environment Strategy, Our Place in Time and providing advice on the management of Scotland’s wider historic environment. Building, Archaeology and Voluntary Sector grants to third parties plus goods and services not included in administration and operating costs. ”

Ignoring the now erroneous reference to OPiT, this is a welcome direct reference to the grants provided to the sector via HES. The importance of these grants across the sector cannot be emphasised enough; with HES one of the few funders able to fund both organisations as well as building fabric. Sector stability, and the community impact of organisations and projects working with Scottish Government funding, through HES’ dispersal of these grants.

After last year’s cuts and the changes to Creative Scotland’s budget over the course of the year, it is positive to see that the Culture Budget is receiving a modest uplift overall.

The Planning Budget’s increase seems exceptionally positive in the face of the continued and sustained activity in this area. However with Planning reforms and new consultation suggested in early 2024, it remains to be seen if this budget fits the ever increasing pressures put on the profession. More about current resourcing can be read in RTPI Scotland’s research briefing, Resourcing the Planning Service Key trends and findings 2023 (released December 2023).

The significant decrease in Cities & Investment Strategy is not good news for place. Stasis is also seen in the budget for City Region and Growth Deals in Local Authority budgets. The Regeneration Budget also reduces slightly.

An area only recently examined within BEFS brief budget analysis statements has been the position of the Scottish Funding Council and the Skills & Training budgets. Both budget lines don’t necessarily paint a positive picture. Scottish Funding Council receives a 5.3% decrease with Skills Development Scotland facing a 2% cut. At a time of skills emergency across the sector, and with ever stretched collages and courses – as well as significant need to meet future net zero demands, this seems short-sighted at best.

Within the Local Government Funding outwith Core Settlement (p52) we can see that the Home Energy Efficiency Programmes for Scotland (HEEPS) remained static as does the Vacant & Derelict Land programme. When considering net-zero specifically, the Climate Action & Just Transition funding sees a significant decrease almost halving since last year.

Significant news within the built environment has been the slashing of the More Homes budget by 33% – initial thinking could see this as of note to our existing built environment, but as the stasis to other areas is seen above (and below); and with councils declaring housing emergencies this reduction in funding for homes may just put pressure on all aspects of our housing system.

A small chink of light within a budget devoid of much good news is the increase to Building Standards (95% increase) which will fund: “a programme of research and professional advice to ensure the Building Standards system in Scotland delivers its regulatory requirements and supports the creation and renewal of safe and sustainable buildings that stand the test of time.”

That is what so many across the sector work for, “the creation and renewal of safe and sustainable buildings that stand the test of time”. I feel perhaps, that one small budget line is not enough to achieve that necessary aim.

Please note that due to budgetary changes throughout the previous years, and changes in naming of funds and portfolios (all issues which fail to give clarity, and highlighted by SPICe) it may not be of greatest benefit to read each year-to-year budget as an accurate reflection of what occurred during the year.

2020-2021 Budget 2021-2022 Budget 2022-2023 Budget 2023-2024 Budget 2024-2025 Budget
£m £m £m £m £m
Architecture and Place 1.4 1.5 1.5 1.5 1.5
Building Standards 2 16.7 11.8 31.3 2.4
Housing and Building Standards 533.2
Planning 8.3 11.5 13.7 12.3 65.6
Planning and Environmental Appeals 0.7 0.7 0.6 0.6 0.6
More Homes 896.1 748.1 744.3 567.5 375.8
Registers of Scotland 12.4 11.2 8.5 10.4 10
Fuel Poverty/Energy Efficiency 135.2 187.7 194.3 231.1
Energy Efficiency and Decarbonisation 358.2
Fuel Poverty & Housing Quality 1.7
Cities & Investment Strategy 205.6 209.8 233.2 263.2 211.1
Regeneration 47.4 111.6 96.4 59.2 58.5
Vacant and Derelict Land Grant 7.6 7.6 7.6 7.6 5
Creative Scotland and Other Arts 67.3 63.2 69.3 64.2 75.6
Cultural Collections 79.2 75.7 90 87.9 91.9
Major Events and Themed Years 6.6 8.2 18.2 24.2
Culture and Major Events Staffing 4.4 4.7 5.1 5 3.6
National Performing Companies 22.9 22.9 22.9 22.9 23.6
National Parks 13.9 17.5 18.5 20.9 21.8
Natural Resources, Peatland (and Flooding not 2023 or 2024) 29.7 44.1 56.4 60.7 31.4
Scottish Environmental Protection Agency 37.1 43.5 41.4 49 52.6
NatureScot 49.1 50.2 49.6 61.1 65.6
Zero Waste 16.5 40.2 43.4 47.4 48.9
Land Reform 15 14.9 12.3 13.9 11.6
Tourism 50.6 65.1 51.2 49.4 47
Climate Acton & Just Transition/  2024 Climate Action and Policy 28.7 29.8 49.1 79.5 29
Just Transition 12.2
Scottish Land Commission 1.5 1.5 1.6 1.5 1.6
City Region and Growth Deals 3.8 11.2 7.2 12.7 12.4
Clyde Gateway Urban Regeneration Company 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5
Capital Land and Works 22 22 18.9 15
City Region and Growth Deals – in Local Government Funding 2024 201 198.1 226 191.3 190
Home Energy Efficiency Programmes for Scotland (HEEPS) 55 58 64 64 64
Regeneration Capital Grant Fund 25 25 25 25 25
Vacant and Derelict Land Investment Programme 5 5 10 10
Place Based Investment Programme (was Place, Town Centres and 20 Minute Neighbourhoods) 23 33 23 23