Covid Scotland update: Extra funding announced to help hospitality and culture sectors deal with Omicron

Extra funding has been announced to help the hospitality and culture sectors deal with the impact of the Omicron variant.

Nicola Sturgeon announced a £100 million fund as she criticised the UK Treasury for failing to provide additional support.

However, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced extra cash minutes before Ms Sturgeon’s update to MSPs, which the First Minister later welcomed.

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Scotland Covid update: Nicola Sturgeon asks Scots to limit socialising to three ...
Picture: ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images

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There are no details yet around how much money will be provided by the Treasury. It will be set in the coming days and kept under review.

Elsewhere, Ms Sturgeon also announced an extra £100 million to ensure the Self Isolation Support Grant is available for those who need it.

It came as she asked Scots to limit social mixing to three households in a bid to reduce the spread of Omicron ahead of Christmas.

Ms Sturgeon stressed she is not asking Scots to “cancel Christmas”, but urged people to cut down on interaction outside their own household in the run up to the festive period.

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Addressing MSPs in Holyrood, she said: "Many of the protections that help curtail Covid come at a financial cost to individuals and businesses - so wherever we can, we put in place financial packages to protect people’s health, jobs and livelihoods.

"However, the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments do not have the ability to borrow to meet the Covid funding challenge.

"UK funding arrangements mean we rely on the Treasury to do so on our behalf.

"And although Scottish taxpayers foot our share of the bill, money only flows to the devolved governments when the UK government makes decisions.

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"Financial support is not triggered if the devolved governments take decisions we consider appropriate for public health reasons - even though it is our responsibility to do so.

"So because the UK government is at this stage not proposing any further protections - a position I do not agree with - there is no funding generated to compensate businesses for any protections we wish to put in place.

"That is not acceptable in current circumstances and, with the Welsh and Northern Irish governments, we are pressing for a fairer approach that takes account of our devolved responsibilities for protecting public health.

"But for now, this is the situation we are in, and it means our public health response is curtailed by lack of finance.

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"There are further steps we could and would have considered today - particularly around hospitality - had we the financial ability to do so. But we don’t.

"However, I can confirm that with some considerable difficulty, we have managed to identify within our own resources around £100 million that we will use to help businesses, mainly those in hospitality and food supply and in the culture sector, affected by our advice last week on work Christmas parties and further affected by what I have said today."

Ms Sturgeon said the extra cash is "the limit of what we are able to do within our resources", adding: "I know it does not go far enough in compensating businesses for what we are asking of them now - and, of course, no government can rule out having to go further in the weeks ahead."

However, she later welcomed the announcement of additional Treasury cash.

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The First Minister said she did not have the information before getting to her feet, adding: “I don’t have any of the detail of that yet, but I do absolutely welcome that.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Throughout this pandemic, the United Kingdom has stood together as one family, and we will continue to do so.

“We are working with the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to drive the vaccine rollout to all corners of the United Kingdom and ensure people and businesses all across the country are supported.”

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