Kate Forbes knows it is UK Government schemes helping to protect Scotland's economy - Steve Barclay
I was disappointed but not surprised that Kate Forbes managed to write more than 900 words about the response to coronavirus without mentioning a single UK Government initiative.
No mention of the nearly one million jobs in Scotland that the UK Government has protected through our furlough and self-employment support schemes.
Nothing about the 90,000 loans worth nearly £3.4billion which are helping Scottish businesses through the pandemic.
And absolutely no mention of the unprecedented £8.6bn of guaranteed funding that we have already provided to the Scottish Government to spend in any way they see fit this year.
Nor anything on the further £2.4bn that we confirmed in November for next year.
The fact is - as I wrote to Ms Forbes last week - the overwhelming majority of Covid support to businesses and people across the UK is and will continue to be delivered through the UK Treasury.
In that letter I pushed Ms Forbes to acknowledge the role that UK Government schemes are playing in protecting Scotland’s economy.
But it seems that the Scottish Government have a blind spot when it comes to the £280bn of support that the Treasury has provided across the UK.
This despite the International Monetary Fund’s independent assessment of our economic plan describing it as “one of the best examples of coordinated action globally”.
Unfortunately the only schemes that seem to exist to the Scottish Government are the ones that they themselves administer.
Ms Forbes’s article claims that she faces difficulty in setting the Scottish Government budget before the UK Budget.
Let me be very clear that nothing stops the Scottish Government from setting their budget before the UK Budget.
The fact that the Scottish Government’s last budget was set on 6 February 2020 ahead of our Budget on 11 March 2020 underlines that.
Ms Forbes’s also failed to mention the additional powers available to the Scottish Government such as tax and borrowing.
And she says she will only be able to take further action on non-domestic rates relief next financial year if the UK Government announces enhanced rates relief at our own budget.
Again this doesn’t make sense. It is entirely up to the Scottish Government to decide how to use their devolved taxes.
Ms Forbes repeats her request for the UK Government to release what she has previously described as “Scotland’s share” of the Covid-19 Response fund.
This is deliberately obtuse, for a couple of reasons.
First, as Ms Forbes is well aware, much of the UK Reserve is likely to be needed in 2021/22 for the UK Government to fund UK-wide testing and vaccine procurement, the biggest hope for ending the lockdown and get the entire UK-economy firing again.
Second, the Scottish Government have their own £700 million reserve.
Third, the UK Government’s Barnett-based funding for next year is already providing the Scottish Government with £129 per head for every £100 per head spent on matters in England that are devolved in Scotland.
And if this is still not enough, as I have already said, the Scottish Government also has powers to raise taxes and borrow on the markets should they chooseto do so.
The Scottish Government have an important role to play as the legitimately elected devolved administration.
I am a democrat and I respect the devolved fiscal settlement
But I am also clear eyed that the Scottish Government are the real threat to devolution.
They will use every lever at their disposal to try and break up our precious Union, dragging up a constitutional debate that they said would be settled for a generation by the vote in 2014.
People and businesses in Scotland have repeatedly urged the UK and Scottish Governments to put politics aside and work together to tackle this pandemic.
The UK Government are ready to do so.
But we have not provided all this support to people and businesses in Scotland to see that hard work undermined by constant constitutional wrangling.