Page last updated at 23:53 GMT, Wednesday, 5 August 2009 00:53 UK

Closer cross-border working call

Holyrood and Westminster parliaments
The report said it was often unclear how UK guidance applied to Scotland

The Scottish and UK governments could co-operate more in planning for emergencies like terror attacks or swine flu, a report has said.

Audit Scotland said key public bodies were co-operating well to deal with civil contingencies but there was still scope for improvement.

It said a grey area was the extent to which UK guidance applied to Scotland.

Scottish ministers said the swine flu pandemic had enabled closer working, and insisted they were not complacent.

The report by the public spending watchdog examined progress made in light of UK legislation passed in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks and the foot and mouth outbreak.

Sensitive information

The legislation required the Scottish and UK governments to consult each other in planning for national emergencies and the report said "formal links" were in place.

But it added: "Their relative roles and responsibilities are not always clearly defined or understood."

Scotland's auditor general, Robert Black, said the terrorist attack at Glasgow Airport, the risks to fuel supplies caused by industrial action, flooding and the recent swine flu pandemic underlined the importance of contingency planning.

He said the Scottish Government has been "very active" in supporting civil contingencies work.

But there needed to be a standard approach to the handling of sensitive information, according to the report, while greater clarity was also needed on leadership, roles and responsibilities, accountability and priorities.

'Challenging times'

Audit Scotland also said communicating with local communities also needed to improve so the public was better informed.

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "Whether it be a terrorist incident or a fuel crisis, agencies both national and regional have demonstrated that they deliver during challenging times.

"However, improvements can always be made, and we cannot and will not be complacent.

"It is fair to say that things have moved on somewhat since the early part of 2008, and the current response to the flu pandemic has enabled us to improve our procedures even further."

Opposition parties urged the Scottish Government to act on the report's recommendations urgently.

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