Thursday, 29 Jul 2021

‘Where’s the money gone?’ Gove rages at secrecy of SNP Covid spending – vows urgent action

Michael Gove issues warning to SNP over transparency

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The Cabinet Officer minister accused the Scottish Government of having shown “no transparency” in its spending of extra money given by Westminster during the pandemic. An extra £14.5billion was given to Scotland by the UK Government following the Covid crisis in order to provide businesses and communities with the money they needed.

However, the Scottish Government’s Budget Outturn for 2020/21 published last month showed £449million of its £48billion spending pot was unused at the end of the financial year in April.

It included £182million allocated for the NHS.

At the same time, businesses have accused the SNP of failing to provide adequate support since the first lockdown in March 2020.

In the Commons this morning, Mr Gove said he had recently spoken to Scottish businesses angered at the SNP’s spending.

He said: “When I was in the northeast and when I was in the western isles recently, it was the case that I heard individuals and businesses crying out for economic support.

“When I explain its as the case the UK Government had given significant sums to the Scottish Government in the Covid crisis in order to deal with the emergency, the question was ‘how has it been spent?’

“There has been no accountability and no transparency on the part of the Scottish Government.

“We have no idea how that money has been spent.”

He made his remarks in response to a question by Scottish Conservative leader and Moray MP Douglas Ross who asked “what mechanisms are available to the UK Government to ensure that the Scottish Government does make full use of this support”.

Mr Gove urged the Scottish Government to be upfront on its spending and warned he would take action to force them to reveal where the money had gone if they failed to be transparent.

“The Scottish Parliament does not – yet – have the powers necessary to get to that,” he said.

“However, it is the case that Her Majesty’s Treasury can ask tough questions and require information to be shared.”

The minister added: “Unless the Scottish Government is more transparent, I will have to consider how I can work with ministers to make sure Scottish taxpayers know where their money has gone.”

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Yesterday the SNP Government found itself under fire for “routinely” rejecting applications for coronavirus self-isolation grants.

Those on a low income are eligible to receive a £500 payment to help cover lost earnings while quarantining.

However, since the launch of the fund last autumn, nearly two-thirds of applications have been rejected.

Just 11,311 out of 29,311 requests were approved.

Tory MSP Miles Briggs said the SNP “must be open and upfront as to why so many applications to this critical fund are being routinely rejected”.

A Scottish Government spokesman defended the rejections.

He said: “Spending on grants is dependent on the spread of the virus and the number required to isolate.

“We have made it clearer for workers to establish if they are eligible by providing more information, including earnings thresholds.”

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