New report calls for greater budget transparency to realise human rights

A new report published by the Scottish Human Rights Commission recommends the Scottish Government should produce and publish two key fiscal documents to improve budget transparency.

The Commission recommends the Scottish Government prioritise the publication of a pre-budget statement and regular in-year reports or budget revisions, which are key to achieving international best practice.

A pre-budget statement sets out the plans for government spend, and in-year reports tell us what the government is spending.

Key fiscal information

This fiscal data would help ensure the Scottish Parliament and independent audit bodies play a crucial role in holding the government accountable for financial decisions.

The comprehensive report Scotland’s Open Budget Survey 2023 compares the openness of Scotland’s budgetary processes with those of 125 countries involved in the International Budget Partnership’s latest Open Budget Survey.

The research findings show that Scotland has made some progress in transparency of budget process since 2019 but despite this improvement Scotland is still failing to reach standards considered adequate by international best practice. 

Highlighted areas for improvement

  • The need to improve the timing of publication of key fiscal information.
  • Lack of an overall pre-budget statement means it was not possible for any oversight body to examine the fiscal policy plans for the forthcoming budget year.
  • Scottish Government failed to publish any in-year reports.
  • Significant improvements are required to translate fiscal transparency into meaningful public participation.
  • The lack of available data means it is still not possible to undertake an analysis of the budget that takes into account economic, social and cultural rights.

The research includes a series of recommendations for the Scottish Government, Scottish Parliament and oversight bodies. These highlight areas of the budget process that still require improvement to enable rights-based scrutiny and delivery of the budget.  All the reports can be found on our website at or via the links below.

Read the full report

Read the summary

Easy read version

The report has been developed by the Commission, with support from the Health and Social Care ALLIANCE and a range of academic partners, as part of a Human Rights Budget Work project. The research was conducted by Kirstie Ken English on behalf of the Commission and overseen by Dr Alison Hosie, Research Officer for the Scottish Human Rights Commission.

Jan Savage is Executive Director of the Scottish Human Rights Commission. She said:

“The current fiscal climate is one of the hardest times in recent history, with tough decisions required within a tight fiscal envelope.

“It has never been more important for Scotland’s budgetary decisions to be open and transparent in order to support public engagement and facilitate formal and informal oversight.

“Scottish Government budget setting and spending decisions must take full account of people’s human rights. Scotland has made progress across all three areas of Open Budgeting, at a time where many countries have stalled or slipped backwards and Scotland’s score for Budget Oversight also sits at the top of the table.

“This modest progress in fiscal transparency is not yet translating into opportunities for meaningful public engagement with the budget. Progress also remains insufficient to facilitate a rights-based analysis of the budget, which is concerning as Scotland progresses to incorporate economic, social and cultural rights into domestic law. It's not just about balancing the books; it's about ensuring that every penny of public money spent reflects the values, aspirations and rights of the people it serves.”


For media enquiries please contact:

Notes to editors:

  1. The International Budget Partnership (IBP) is a nonprofit organisation of economists, advocates and policy analysts dedicated to ensuring governments are responsible stewards of public funds.
  2. The Open Budget Survey (OBS) explores transparency, participation and oversight in the budget process. The OBS is the only independent, comparative measure of open budgets, and covers 125 countries. The UK government’s budget process is already assessed by the OBS, however, Scotland’s devolved budgeting processes are not specifically subject to assessment. The research behind this report has the support of IBP, and followed the OBS methodology to provide comparable scores for Scotland.
  3. The Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) is the national third sector intermediary for a range of health and social care organisations.
  4. The Scottish Human Rights Commission is a public body created by the Scottish Commission for Human Rights Act 2006, to protect and promote the human rights of all people in Scotland.
    We are Scotland’s human rights watchdog. Our job is to work with people and communities to understand their experiences, hold public bodies to account and help them to do better. The Commission is also part of the international human rights system. As Scotland’s National Human Rights Institution (NHRI), we are accredited by the United Nations as a trusted organisation to provide impartial evidence on human rights in Scotland
  5. Read more about our Human Rights Budget work on our website at