Keir Starmer quizzed on funding for proposed coronavirus action
Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and urged the UK Government to release £21.3billion of reserves to help tackle the impact of coronavirus. The COVID-19 reserve was announced as part of the UK Spending Review in November and was expected to be allocated in 2021-2022
But now Nicola Sturgeon’s Finance Secretary has begged the Chancellor and asked that the Scottish Government be given its share of the funds now.
This would total around £1.7billion if the whole amount was allocated to devolved spending areas.
It comes after Economy Minister Fiona Hyslop was unable to say how an extra £8.6billion from the UK Government to fight the pandemic was being spent.
She was asked on BBC Good Morning Scotland’s programme: “So we do not know as of yet how much has been spent to support business?” with Ms Hyslop responding “Yes.”
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Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said: “SNP minister Fiona Hyslop hopelessly struggled to answer where they’ve spent UK Government funding and how much of it has gone to businesses.
“We’ve seen this before from the SNP.
“They hide how much is actually going to businesses in a fog of different funds.”
Ms Forbes said to the Chancellor: “If this was allocated against devolved spending areas, it would result in additional funding of around £1.7 billion for Scotland.
“It is imperative that this funding is released now so that plans can be made to mitigate the impact of the virus as far as possible on our health service, business and the wider economy.
“Our focus is on delivering the maximum possible support for business and wellbeing through this critical period.”
She added: “Demand continues to outstrip the resources available and our inability to borrow on the financial markets, or even use unspent capital funding to address immediate needs, leaves us reliant on the UK Government.
“The new strain of the virus and subsequent tightening of restrictions mean that further funding is required now.
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“I urge the UK Government to release our share of these reserves so we can provide the maximum support to businesses and the health service during this critical period.”
Rishi Sunak also announced a further £594million for local authorities and devolved administrations to support businesses not eligible for the grants.
The SNP led Scottish Government will receive £375million, the Welsh Government £227million and the Northern Ireland Executive £127million.
But Ms Forbes criticised the Treasury and claimed the new pandemic support measures will not generate any extra money for Holyrood.
In response, a UK Government spokesperson said: “People and businesses in Scotland continue to benefit from UK-wide schemes like grants for the self-employed and furlough – which the UK government are paying for.
“We have also given the Scottish Government an additional £8.6bn of upfront funding this year to help them to respond to the pandemic as well as a further £1.3bn for COVID-19 support next year.
“The Scottish Government already have significant borrowing powers, which are on top of the share of UK Government borrowing they receive through the Barnett formula.”
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