Professor David Heald

Research Activities

Professor David Heald
Most of my research time is committed to: public audit; fiscal transparency (my original UK focus has internationalised); public sector corporate governance; devolved public finance (devolved government came to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in 1999 and Scotland voted No in an Independence referendum on 18 September 2014); and government accounting reform (particularly proposed European harmonisation, and accounting for Public-Private Partnerships and government guarantees). Thanks to externally funded research leave (Royal Society of Edinburgh/Scottish Government Support Research Fellowship, 2010-11, and Leverhulme Trust, 2012-15), I had time to engage on major writing projects on public expenditure and public audit.

Although the main focus of my work is on the United Kingdom, I am greatly interested in comparative developments across the world, both with regard to government accounting and fiscal decentralisation. The explicit links stressed by HM Treasury between public expenditure planning and fiscal policy stimulated me to examine the substance and rhetoric of fiscal transparency. On the more general relevance of transparency to public policy, I published in 2006 an edited book Transparency: The Key to Better Governance? with Christopher Hood (Gladstone Emeritus Professor of Government, All Souls College, Oxford).

With Christopher Hood and Rozana Himaz (Oxford Brookes), I edited When the Party's Over: The Politics of Fiscal Squeeze in Perspective, published in October 2014 by Oxford University Press as Proceedings of the British Academy 197. This book has three analytical chapters and nine country case studies of historical episodes of fiscal squeeze. With Tom Mullen (Glasgow) and Gordon Marnoch (Ulster), I directed an ESRC-funded project on 'Communicating Brexit's Impact on the Law, Governance and Public Finances of the UK Devolved Nations and the Republic of Ireland'. The project website can be found here. My recent published papers are on Chair-CEO relationships in public bodies , the governance of public bodies in times of austerity, proposals for European Public Sector Accounting Standards, the relevance of transparency and trust to public audit, and the UK's divorce bill from the EU.

I have written a comprehensive account of the politics of Scotland’s public finances for The Oxford Handbook of Scottish Politics, to be published in 2020, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the devolution settlement.

COVID-19 is not only a public health crisis but also a fiscal crisis. I have submitted written evidence on the effects on Scotland’s fiscal framework to the Finance and Constitution Committee of the Scottish Parliament. With Ron Hodges (Birmingham), I have published on the accounting and budgeting implications of the massive UK fiscal response to the COVID-19 crisis.