Over the last four years, public debate has been dominated by the UK's relationship with Europe. In every aspect of society including public service delivery it has been difficult to avoid the uncertainty that this constitutional debate has brought. Now after a Brexit-related general election, it seems that the air of uncertainty around Brexit is beginning to lift across the country. With the passing of the Withdrawal Bill the UK will leave the European Union.
In Scotland, the Brexit conversation is being replaced with debate around a different type of constitutional reform. Scotland's relationship with the UK has of course evolved over the 20 years since devolution. Discussion of reform has however been constant and has been reflected in the diverging public policy choices which devolution allows to be made.
Yet there are public service challenges such as social care, health care provision and the need for good financial management that are UK wide and transcend the borders of devolution. Scotland is still a part of the wider UK financial framework linked through taxation and the Barnett Formula. Both the Scottish and UK budgets will have been announced by the time of the Scottish conference, Public Finance Live Scotland 2020 on 19–20 March in Glasgow.
Three of Scotland's major public figures will offer views on the prevailing issues in Scotland at conference. We will welcome the Minister for Finance and the Digital economy Kate Forbes MSP who will explain the choices and the financial challenges behind the 2021 Scottish budget. The Auditor General, Caroline Gardiner, is the public official who holds government to account. Caroline is nearing the end of her fixed term appointment and no doubt will reflect on her tenure and the changes and choices made by government over her period of appointment. Susan Aitken is the Leader of Glasgow City Council, the host city for the world's largest climate conference this year, will bring a blend of global as well as local reflections.
The necessary thread that links political choices, public services and taxation is good financial management. CIPFA's new Financial Management Code, first unveiled in draft at last year's conference, will form a central point of discussion on the eve of its introduction into Scotland. The conference offers the opportunity to assess the extent to which it should be extended to other sectors.
Public Finance Live Scotland offers a space in which politicians and professionals can gather to debate the issues of the day and seek solutions without recourse to constitutional barriers or borders. While constitutional debate may be the continuing backdrop to these conversations, Scotland's public finances and public services must take centre stage.