Rishi Sunak has delivered record funding, now it is up to SNP - Douglas Ross

Just over a month ago, Rishi Sunak delivered a ground-breaking Budget for Scotland.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross.

The biggest block grant since devolution, £4.6 billion extra for public services, and an average annual Budget of £41 billion, for at least three years.

It was a Budget that was designed to support all corners of the United Kingdom to recover from the devastating effects of Covid. And millions of pounds of direct investment are already on track to make a difference to local communities across Scotland.

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But the majority of our public spending is now in the hands of Kate Forbes and the SNP, as we await their upcoming Budget, this Thursday.

The essential priority of this year’s Budget is, of course, to strike the balance between supporting our economic recovery, and rebuilding our health and care services.

Given the Nationalists’ shocking record on both, the Scottish public will be doubting whether they can deliver on either.

It is not an easy task – but what we need is a Government that is entirely focused on getting the job done. Our recovery from the pandemic must be the number one priority for the SNP’s upcoming Budget.

Attempts to play politics or prioritise a push for a divisive second independence referendum will go down like a lead balloon with the Scottish public, whose real concerns are rebuilding our healthcare system, protecting jobs and growing the economy.

The Scottish Conservatives have been the only party to consistently stand up for Scottish jobs and livelihoods – and unlike many of our SNP, Green and Labour counterparts, we recognise that a healthy economy is essential to our nation’s quality of life.

Trade-offs were necessary at the height of the pandemic, but our economy can no longer be sacrificed.

Rishi Sunak’s world-leading furlough scheme saved a million Scottish jobs throughout the pandemic, but almost 20,000 Scottish businesses still ended up being lost.

That’s tens of thousands of jobs and livelihoods devastated by Covid.

It is often framed as heartless to consider the economy to be equally as important as health and social issues – but the fact is that a thriving economy is vital for the health, wellbeing and happiness of any nation.

The SNP must now deliver significant business support to protect Scottish jobs in 2022. We are calling for a rates reduction of 75 per cent, in order to prevent Scottish businesses hitting a fatal cliff edge, with the return of business rates next Spring.

However, we also recognise the importance of rebuilding our public services. This Budget must commit to a step change in the quality and capacity of our healthcare system, by passing on the full £2.1 billion of healthcare consequentials awarded in the UK Budget.

Years of SNP under-resourcing and mismanagement of our healthcare service left the NHS at the point of collapse, even before the pandemic.

We now have an opportunity to rebuild our NHS into a health service that provides Scots with some of the highest quality of care in the world – if the SNP are able to maximise our resources.

With the UK Government’s record funding, it is perfectly possible to support a rapid and sustainable recovery for Scotland’s economy and our public services. Whether the SNP have the political will, is another question.

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