Saturday, 15 May 2021

Nicola Sturgeon’s independence dream dealt blow as £9.7BN UK fund ‘shows union’s strength’

Nicola Sturgeon 'hoarding' UK funding claims Miklinski

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The UK Government’s cash injection is in addition to the £8.6billion already provided to the Scottish Government through Barnett formula consequentials. The mechanism is used by the Treasury to automatically adjust the amounts of public monies allocated to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to reflect changes in spending levels in England.

The latest funding brings Scotland’s total to £9.7billion.

Alister Jack, secretary of state for Scotland, said the boost from the UK Government demonstrated the “strength of the union”.

Despite the Covid pandemic raging above the border, Mrs Sturgeon is stepping up drive for independence.

Last month the Scottish National Party (SNP) set up a task force for independence.

The move, which was highly criticised, came ahead of the Holyrood elections in May.

The SNP-led Government welcomed the additional funding but was critical of its timing.

They said the fact that it came more than a week after the Scottish Government’s budget had been set underlined the “shortcomings of the devolved funding arrangements”.

Steve Barclay, chief secretary to the Treasury, announced the funding.

He said: “From the outset of this crisis people and businesses in Scotland have been able to rely on the UK Government.

“UK Treasury schemes such as furlough, support for the self-employed and business loans have helped to protect jobs and livelihoods.

“The UK government will continue to offer this support and to give the Scottish Government the resources and flexibility it needs to fulfil its responsibilities to the people of Scotland.

“I would urge the Scottish Government to make the full and best use of this funding as well as their devolved powers to support people, businesses and public services.”

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A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said the date of the announcement – after the budget had been set – “demonstrates, however, the shortcomings of the devolved funding arrangements, where we are only informed of Barnett consequentials long after the UK Government’s associated policy decisions have been made.”

They added: “Moreover the Scottish Government cannot borrow at its own hand to fund spending in response to COVID-19 or support the economy in the way that countries around the world have done.

“It is clear that the review of the Fiscal Framework must give Scotland the powers and fiscal flexibilities necessary to support the delivery of a prosperous and green recovery and we will continue to press for these additional flexibilities.”

Ms Sturgeon last week was at loggerheads with Boris Johnson over their respective travel quarantine plans.

After the First Minister failed to convince Mr Johnson to adopt a stricter policy, she said on Monday that Scotland will have to “look at alternatives” if a UK-wide agreement cannot be reached.

People flying directly into Scotland on international flights have to self-isolate for 10 days in a quarantine hotel, under new regulations which took effect today.

But south of the border only those coming from one of the 33 “red list” countries have to isolate in a hotel.

All other international arrivals are being told to quarantine at home.

Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said on Sunday that a “loophole” allowing overseas travellers to avoid hotel quarantine still exists which could “potentially undermine the public health approach here in Scotland”.

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