Scottish Budget: SNP/Greens ditch £20m independence fund in favour of Fuel Insecurity Fund

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A fund to hold an independence referendum in October next year has been ditched by the Scottish Government in their Budget.

Opposition parties had demanded the Scottish Government use the fund for other spending priorities ahead of the Budget, and following the Supreme Court result it was clear it was highly unlikely a referendum would take place in October 2023.

The independence referendum fund, worth £20 million when it was set out for the 2023/24 Budget in the resource spending review earlier this year by finance secretary Kate Forbes, will instead go towards funding an extension of the Government’s fuel insecurity fund.

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The fund was initially doubled to £20m in the first round of the emergency budget review, set out in September by John Swinney.

That fund will now be extended for another financial year, with Mr Swinney stating if there is another independence referendum, the Government will find the money within the Budget.

He told MSPs: “In the resource spending review, the Scottish Government committed to make £20m available to fund the cost of a referendum on Scottish independence. The Government believed that to be a necessary investment to ensure the people of Scotland have the opportunity to express their democratic right to self-government.

“The Scottish Government respects the decision of the Supreme Court, but still believes that people of Scotland must have the opportunity to have that say in a democratic referendum in line with our clear mandate. And when that opportunity is available, the Scottish Government will make financial provisions for that to happen. However, at this moment I must make full use of the resources available to me.”

Mr Swinney added: “One of the reasons why I believe Scotland will be a successful independent country is because of the energy wealth that we enjoy. Scotland is a country with an abundance of renewable energy opportunities. The travesty, however, is that despite that strength too many of our people languish in fuel poverty.

John Swinney announced the Scottish Budget in Holyrood today.John Swinney announced the Scottish Budget in Holyrood today.
John Swinney announced the Scottish Budget in Holyrood today.

"In order to help our most vulnerable citizens, I intend to utilise the finance earmarked for a referendum on independence to make provision to extend our fuel insecurity fund into next year. A further £20m to address yet another failure of the United Kingdom and its policies.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of pro-UK campaign group Scotland in Union, said of the move: “This should encourage the SNP-Green Government to focus more on things that people really care about rather than an unhealthy obsession with separation.”

A UK Government source said: “It is welcome the SG have finally dropped the pretence of holding a referendum on leaving the UK. Hopefully there can now be a renewed focus from the Scottish Government on working together with the UK Government on the issues that matter most to the people of Scotland.”

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