Committees of the Scottish Parliament are frequently lauded as one of the success stories of devolutionary policy-making, albeit a rarely reported one. An exception, it might be said, is the committees' input into the Scottish Executive's budget-making, a mysterious process at the best of times. An ambitious exercise took place this week in which all the committees grilled executive officials on their areas of responsibility.
The education committee heard from representatives of the education and social work directorates on children's services expenditure. To nobody's great surprise, the refrain was that ministers never give councils enough cash to do what is expected of them. It was ever thus, and the existence of the committees seems to have done little to make the process more transparent. Indeed, the education committee noted its disappointment and concern that a number of points made in its report on the budget last year had not been fully addressed. This is a critical part of the committees'
scrutiny functions but, on the evidence so far, it remains very much a work in progress.