'Overall less money' in Scottish Budget despite £290m cost-of-living funding from UK

UK Government failures to guarantee whether new funding is additional to the Scottish Budget ramps up the pressure on Scottish ministers, the finance secretary has complained.

The finance secretary said the UK Government’s decision to issue a £150 council tax rebate to those in bands A to D did not result in any additional funding for the Scottish Budget.

This was confirmed officially earlier this month, with the overall budget for Scotland less than the Treasury’s earlier estimates.

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Kate Forbes claimed this approach of last-minute confirmation of funding created pressure on the Scottish Government to spend money it was not yet sure existed.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has attacked the UK Government over funding concerns

The finance secretary said she would raise the issue of volatility in expected funding from the UK Government with the Chief Secretary of the Treasury, Simon Clarke, in a meeting next week.

The senior SNP figure said: “This is a persistent and pervasive problem and we have raised that on numerous occasions with the Treasury in the past.

"Treasury officials do their best in terms of providing us with estimates, but there is an inherent volatility in these figures until they are formally confirmed.

"The difficulty is, of course, when funding is announced by the UK Government, there are immediate calls, particularly in this chamber, across opposition parties for us to spend it immediately.

"Whilst I recognise the importance of getting money out of the door quickly, we also have to make sure that that funding is actually additional, it’s new, and that there’s more money in the bank to pay out.”

Ms Forbes said the £290m of ‘new’ funding for cost-of-living was instead funded by a cut to the “expected uplift in health expenditure”, resulting in “less money” for Scotland than expected.

Her comments came as SNP backbenchers accused the UK Government of managing finances in an “utterly irresponsible way”.

The finance secretary said: “Clearly the net effect of that will be to have overall less money than what we were expecting following the announcement of measures to support the cost of living.”

"The funding position moved on an almost daily basis in January with figures not formally confirmed until supplementary estimates were published on February 22."

Ms Forbes said this “significantly undermines” the ability of the Scottish Government to plan ahead.

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