Kate Forbes warns funding won’t cover Scottish pandemic costs

The costs of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic in Scotland are significantly higher than the additional cash that has been given to Holyrood ministers by the UK Government, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said.

She added that extra funding announced for Scotland, which is based on spending to tackle the virus south of the border, is just estimated – which she said creates massive uncertainty for Holyrood’s budgets.

A previous commitment of £60 million in business support “never materialised”, Ms Forbes said.

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She was speaking after it emerged spending to deal with the coronavirus crisis in Scotland has reached more than £4 billion.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes

Budget revisions published by the Scottish Government on Wednesday set out the financial details of ministers’ response to the emergency, with the bulk of the money coming from a £3.5bn rise in Holyrood’s block grant as a consequence of the UK Government’s increased Covid-19 spending.

The increase is offset by the decision to reduce business rates, so the Scottish Government’s overall budget for the 2020-21 financial year will rise from £49.25bn to £52.03bn.

But Ms Forbes said the figures show how the “costs associated with coronavirus are significantly higher than the consequential funding we have received from the Treasury”.

She added: “My greatest headache is that the money we get from Treasury is still estimates, so we make our funding commitments, we promise to support local government, the health service, businesses, but all of that is based on estimates from the UK Government.

“We’ve already seen this week that an announcement of around £60m of business support that was made a few weeks ago has not materialised, and we’ve been told that actually that money won’t come.”

The Scottish Government has pledged £2.3bn to support businesses.


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