Demands for more Scottish Covid funding dismissed as 'manufactured grievance'

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has dismissed demands for more financial support for Scotland’s businesses, which have been forced to close as a result of tackling the spread of Covid, as “manufactured grievance”.

The UK Government minister said that complaints about lack of clarity on money for Scotland in the last round of Treasury announcements were misplaced.

Speaking on BBC Scotland, he said they were either “manufactured grievance” or those making the demands “simply don’t understand the Barnett formula”.

He said he believed the Scottish Government would “have all the headroom they need” to support businesses as the country moves into a new five-level system of differentiated lockdowns.

Alister Jack, Secretary of State for Scotland

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His comments came as the SNP again claimed Scottish businesses had been “abandoned by the Tory Treasury”, alleging the UK Government had written a “blank cheque" to businesses in England that have been forced to close, but failing to give the same support to those in Scotland.

The party's Westminster leader Ian Blackford said as a result Scottish jobs were under threat. He said the decision "demolishes” Conservative claims the UK is a partnership of equals.

Mr Blackford said: “The Scottish Government is doing everything it can to support businesses with the limited powers it has – but by withholding crucial funding, and blocking the devolution of financial powers, the Tory government is threatening the future of Scottish jobs and businesses.

"The Tory government must guarantee that Scotland will get the same open-ended 'blank cheque' level of support that businesses in England have been promised. Anything less would be completely unacceptable and deeply unfair for Scottish businesses.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has also criticised the apparent lack of long-term support for Scottish businesses, saying: “Businesses in England have been given, rightly, an open-ended commitment to support for as long as needed. The Scottish Government will be expected to match that for Scottish businesses, with no confirmation that the money will be there to pay for it (and no borrowing powers to raise it)”.

Meanwhile the Scottish Retail Consortium has backed moves by the Scottish Government to urge Chancellor Rishi Sunak to reconsider the abolition of tax free shopping for international tourists, which comes into effect from January 1, 2021.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop wrote to Mr Sunak highlighting the impact the move will have on the retail and travel sectors, already severely impacted by the pandemic. It is estimated that thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of pounds in sales could be lost in Scotland as a result of the changes.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “This intervention from Scottish ministers in support of the retention of tax free shopping is most welcome.

"A growing chorus of voices is expressing serious doubts about the wisdom of scrapping tax free shopping for international tourists to Scotland and the rest of the UK. The UK Government needs to reconsider its retrograde decision which risks hampering the economic recovery.”

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