The views of people in North Ayrshire on what the Scottish Government’s budget priorities should be, have been published by a Holyrood committee. 

The move follows MSPs from the Scottish Parliament’s Finance and Public Administration Committee visiting Largs last month (August 30) to hear about Scotland’s budget challenges, drawing on the experiences of businesses, public bodies, community groups and those who live and work there. 

The visit was part of a parliamentary inquiry into the sustainability of Scotland’s finances and allowed local residenjts to give their input. 

It follows the Scottish Government’s forecast that public spending in Scotland is set to outstrip expected income by £1 billion in 2024/25.  The forecast means the government will not have sufficient money to fund all the spending it currently wishes to make. 

 A detailed summary note of the wide-ranging views and opinions from around 30 participants is available here: budget_summaryofengagementevent_30aug23.pdf (

Finance and Public Administration Committee Convener and Cunninghame North MSP Kenneth Gibson said:   “The committee was keen to hear from people directly about their priorities for spending and taxation and for addressing the financial and demographic challenges ahead.  

“The people of Largs – including businesses, third sector bodies and residents – gave us robust views on a whole range of tax and spending issues, including on what the Scottish Government’s fiscal priorities should be next year and beyond. 

“All the views we heard will help inform the committee’s scrutiny of the government’s budget in the autumn.  I’d like to thank everybody who took the time to meet with us in Largs at the Vikingar! centre.” 

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Cunninghame North MSP and committee convenor Kenneth GibsonCunninghame North MSP and committee convenor Kenneth Gibson (Image: Scottish Government)

At the meeting, cross-party MSPs from the Holyrood committee led discussions in five separate groups with attendees representing the business community, public bodies, local authorities, local health organisations, community groups and the third sector. 

Extracts from the discussions include: 

1. Discussion with businesses, led by Liz Smith MSP 

Some concerns were raised regarding the lack of mention of businesses within the Scottish Government’s current priorities. It was felt that priority should be placed on outcomes rather than on inputs. For example, health and wellbeing is an outcome which results from creating wealth, and that priority should therefore be given to creating the wealth. 

2. Discussion with public bodies, local authorities, and local health organisations, led by Kenneth Gibson MSP and Ross Greer MSP 

Views expressed including the need to prioritise funding to address the twin crises of the cost of living and the climate. It was felt that a shift towards more investment from the private sector is needed to plug the ‘green funding gap’, along with prioritising investment in infrastructure to help achieve a net zero economy.  

3. Discussions with the third sector and local community groups, led by Michelle Thomson MSP 

Much of the group discussion focussed on the NHS and healthcare spend. Issues raised included over-50s needing to opt for private healthcare as they are not receiving the treatment they require through the NHS due to the length of waiting lists. 

4. Discussion with community groups and the third sector, led by John Mason MSP 

Discussions included where greater funding for the Scottish Budget could be achieved as well as on where there should be greater expenditure. Priorities discussed included tackling tax evasion both at an individual and business level, considering means testing of currently universal benefits seeking greater income revenue from land taxes. 

5. Discussion with community groups and the third sector, led by Michael Marra MSP 

There was strong opposition to raising taxes to support services within the group, with some arguing that “people are struggling as it is”. It was noted that council tax rates are particularly high in Largs, which is widely seen as a well-off area, despite considerable poverty - a perception that leads to local organisations missing out on funding opportunities. 

Around 30 representatives from the following organisations took part in the event, including Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce, Ayrshire Community Trust, Blue Diamond, Cameron Centre, East Ayrshire Counci, Grasshopper Toys, Largs Thistle, NatureScot, NHS Ayrshire and Arran, North Ayrshire Council, Opening The Shutters,  Skelmorlie Secret Bunker, South of Scotland Enterprise, Supply Chain Management Group, West Kilbride Community Association, Wilkies, Yes Your Entire Self.