Chancellor urged to confirm Scotland’s share of cash to tackle Covid-19

The Scottish Government has demanded “urgent clarification” from the Chancellor over how much cash will go to Scotland to tackle coronavirus.

Rishi Sunak used his Budget statement on Wednesday to announce a £30 billion funding package to boost the economy in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Scotland’s Finance Secretary Kate Forbes called for confirmation of what this will mean for the health service north of the border after the Chancellor pledged to give the NHS “whatever it needs”.

She said: “While I’m pleased to see the UK Government’s economic response to coronavirus following my calls for this at the UK Treasury yesterday, we need confirmation on what this will mean for Scotland.

“We require urgent clarification on what funding Scotland will receive from the announcements made by the UK Government, at a time when the prospects for the economy and public finances remain very uncertain as the short term impacts of Covid-19 unfold.

“We expect full consequentials from this additional funding and need urgent clarification to provide clarity for Scottish businesses and NHS Scotland to ensure we can respond effectively.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said his Budget ‘will deliver for the Scottish people’. (Aaron Chown/PA)

Overall, Mr Sunak said the Budget would boost spending in Scotland by £640 million, adding it would “deliver for the Scottish people”.

Combined with decisions taken by Westminster over the last year, this will mean an almost £2 billion spending boost for Scotland, according to the UK Government.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack hailed it as a “great Budget for Scotland”

As well as £640 million in funding for the Scottish Government, he said there was a “significant boost to broadband infrastructure and a package of support for the Scotch whisky industry, among other economic measures”.

Mr Sunak said: “Our United Kingdom is the most successful political and economic union in history and through this Budget we will further strengthen the ties that bind us and kick-start a decade of investment in all our communities.”

The UK Government has promised a £1 million campaign to promote Scottish food and drink, with whisky producers to benefit from a £10 million fund to help distilleries go green.

There will also be £5 million for trials of 5G in Scotland, alongside plans to roll out broadband to hard to reach areas and to expand 4G coverage to almost three-quarters (74%) of the country.

A growth deal for Argyll and Bute, with £25 million of funding, was also confirmed.

The UK Government is sending Scotland more than £1.9 billion in additional Barnett consequentials, compared to 2019-20.

This will be the largest year-on-year real-terms funding increase for the Scottish Government in a decade. #Budget2020pic.twitter.com/eQKSCZySuc

— Jackson Carlaw MSP (@Jackson_Carlaw) March 11, 2020

Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw tweeted: “The UK Government is sending Scotland more than £1.9 billion in additional Barnett consequentials, compared to 2019-20.

“This will be the largest year-on-year real-terms funding increase for the Scottish Government in a decade.”

Labour finance spokeswoman Rhoda Grant claimed the spending announcements in the Budget meant it was “an admission that austerity has been a failed experiment”.

But she added: “Today’s measures go nowhere near to reversing the damage done to the economy and to people’s livelihoods by the last 10 years of Tory rule.”

Ms Grant also said the extra money that comes to Scotland “must be used to deliver transformational investment in the areas that need it most, such as local government and social care”.

The Budget also included £27 billion for roads improvements, as well as a continued freeze in fuel duty, which Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie branded “dangerous”.

He said the Chancellor had put “deregulated economic growth over people and planet”.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the Budget statement had been “missing was an honest assessment of the economic cost of Brexit”.

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