Covid-19 e-hub


Covid-19 has had far-reaching consequences for Scotland's public services and finances, and it will continue to have an impact in the future.
This e-hub brings together the Covid-19 related reports we've produced so far, as well as other resources.

Latest from our blog

Partnership working key to maximising skills investment

By Stephen Boyle, Auditor General for Scotland

A skilled workforce is vital to Scotland's economic growth. Equipping people with relevant skills can help them to progress to more fulfilling, secure and well-paid work, which in turn has wider social benefits. Developing individuals’ skills can also help to increase their ability to carry out more advanced tasks, which has the potential to add more value to the economy and improve national productivity. But the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on jobs creates the risk that differences between the skills people have and those employers need could widen.

Read the full article Partnership working key to maximising skills investment

Cyber crime: A serious risk to Scotland's public sector

By Dr. Bernadette Milligan

Recent cyber attacks at SEPA and the University of the Highlands and Islands have highlighted the threat that cybercrime poses to the public sector in Scotland.

Read the full article ' Cyber crime: A serious risk to Scotland’s public sector ' on Wordpress

Laptop and padlock

Working to achieve better public services

By Stephen Boyle, Auditor General for Scotland

About a year ago public service delivery was turned on its head.

Vast sums of money were being spent to cope with the pandemic, and there was a huge shift to digital. Overnight, Audit Scotland became a virtual organisation.

That changed landscape and the sheer pace of events meant our reporting had to become more agile and responsive, while maintaining audit quality and looking after our colleagues’ wellbeing.

Read the full article ' Working to achieve better public services ' on Wordpress


Transparency needed to follow pandemic pound

By Stephen Boyle, Auditor General for Scotland

BEFORE coronavirus changed life as we know it, the Scottish Government was facing some very real financial challenges.

They knew the NHS would continue to absorb more of the Scottish budget (41 per cent in 2019/20) without big changes to service delivery and faster integration of health and social care. Those problems largely remain.

Other knot-filled folders sat on ministers’ desks. They included ones marked police and local government funding; Brexit; and managing the volatility of new tax and social security powers. Most of those challenges remain.

Read the full article ' Transparency needed to follow pandemic pound ' on Wordpress

How Scotland tackles inequality is my top priority

By Stephen Boyle, Auditor General for Scotland

Covid-19 has disproportionately affected Scotland’s most vulnerable citizens, and there is risk that it will widen the gap between the haves and have-nots.

How the Scottish Government and public bodies respond to that challenge will be a big focus of our audit work in the months and years ahead.

Poverty is on the rise and mass unemployment is being predicted on a scale not seen since the early 1990s. All at a time when you are already twice as likely to die with Covid-19 if you live in one of this country's most deprived areas.

Read the full article 'How Scotland tackles inequality is my top priority' on Wordpress

Covid-19: responding, adapting and building for the future, Scotland's Strategic Scrutiny bodies

By Elma Murray, Interim Chair, Strategic Scrutiny Group and Interim Chair, Accounts Commission

Covid-19 has changed our society and economy in profound ways. The immediate and longer-term impacts of Covid-19 are ever-present, shifting the ways in which we live and dominating the delivery of public services.

The pace of change has been rapid and, in many ways, this is welcome. However that speed also presents risks to public services and the potential for increased exclusion.

Central to providing citizens with ongoing reassurance about how public services are being provided, alongside the approach to rebuilding and renewing those services, will be regulation, inspection and audit by Scotland’s scrutiny bodies.

Read the full article 'Covid-19: responding, adapting and building for the future, Scotland's Strategic Scrutiny bodies' on Wordpress

Elma Murray

Fiscal events and Covid-19 timeline

The Scottish and UK governments have had to respond quickly to the emerging pandemic.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been the biggest fiscal and policy challenge facing the Scottish Government over the past two decades of devolution. Expected devolved public spending has increased by around 15 per cent since the 2020/21 Scottish budget was first agreed in February 2020 and is subject to significant and continuing revision. Before the pandemic hit, the budget had faced unusual uncertainty with the UK budget being delayed due to the general election, and remains subject to unprecedented uncertainty, volatility and complexity.

Timeline illustrating key dates in the Covid-19 pandemic


Future Covid-19 audit work

Phases 1 to 4 of our audit work

Audit Scotland is committed to helping Parliament and the public understand how public money has been used during this crisis and ensure lessons are learned for the future. The complex and dynamic nature of the Covid-19 crisis means we will need to take a phased approach.


Phase 1 (short term)

  • Briefing the Scottish Parliament on emerging audit risks linked to the public sector response to Covid-19.
  • Considering what this means for our future work programme and the work of the Parliament’s Public Audit and Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee (PAPLS).

Phase 2 (medium term)

  • Developing the work programme to consider the impact of Covid-19 on:
    • specific sectors (eg, NHS, further and higher education, justice, local government)
    • policy commitments (eg, early learning and childcare expansion, addressing child poverty)
    • thematic issues raised by Covid-19 (eg, the impact on Scotland’s public finances, fraud risk management, inequalities).

Phase 3 (longer term)

  • Identifying lessons that can be learnt from the public sector’s response.
  • Assessing the outcomes achieved from key Scottish Government spending and programmes related to Covid-19.
  • Aligning our work programme with the Scottish Government’s work to rebuild Scotland’s economy, remove inequality and advance wellbeing.

Risks and issues for public services emerging from Covid-19


Economic & fiscal

Economy icon

The response to Covid-19 will affect the Scottish economy and its public finances. There may be permanent scarring of some parts of the economy. Increased unemployment seems likely, especially among young people and lower-skilled and in certain sectors: tourism, hospitality, and retail. This may increase demands on the social security system. Any reduction in tax take, relative to the rest of the UK, will increase pressure on Scotland’s public finances.

Back to top

Public services

Public icon

The response of public services to Covid-19 has been strong but there are questions about the sustainability of some sectors: social care, universities and threats to public service delivery associated with staff burnout, backlogs in many public services (NHS, courts), loss of income. There are pressures on the delivery of outcomes in the national performance framework, eg educational outcomes.

Back to top


Equalities icon

Covid-19 has the potential to increase inequalities. The Scottish Government has delayed the introduction of the Scottish Child Payment. There will be a greater economic and employment impact on younger people. There are higher mortality and morbidity cases among the BAME community. Deprived communities have experienced more acute direct (health) and indirect (education) effects.

Back to top

Collaborative leadership

Leadership icon

The response to Covid-19 has led to some coordinated and rapid responses across the public services, such as multi-agency helplines, provision of emergency food and essential supplies and support for rough sleepers. It will be critical to sustain collaboration during shift from short-term response to medium-term recovery. In some cases, a lack of collaborative leadership has had serious effects: transfer of infected patients from hospitals to care settings.

Back to top

Adaptation & innovation

Innovation icon

The response to Covid-19 has resulted in a rapid shift to remote working for large parts of the public sector, eg the establishment of remote council contact centres. This shift has happened at an unprecedented pace. The challenge will be to retain learning from the experience and enable future change. The response to Covid-19 has demonstrated how quickly the public sector can operates eg the construction of a new hospital in Glasgow.

Back to top


Digital icon

The response to Covid-19 has led to a major public sector pivot to more digitally delivered services including school, college and university education, virtual courts, online GP consultations and e-care. While there are genuinely positive aspects to this pivot, it does result in challenges about inequalities of access to digital technology and connectivity with regard to geography and deprivation.

Back to top

Community engagement

Community icon

There are many examples of strong community support and resilience activity in response to Covid-19. However, the need to make rapid decisions about how to change how public services are delivered may have compromised the amount of community engagement that has taken place. As we shift from response to recovery to renewal, it is imperative that all communities are engaged.

Back to top

Governance & accountability

Accountability icon

The response to Covid-19 led to the adjustment to governance systems to enable rapid decision-making. This may have reduced scrutiny, oversight and transparency by non-executives and elected members. The rapid pace of change and changed ways of living and working have increased the risk of error and fraud.

Back to top