Chancellor Rishi Sunak has tried to ease tensions between the Scottish and UK Governments as the UK looks to recover from the health and economic crisis. He said he had plans to “rebuild the economy of Scotland and the whole of the UK” as the country seeks to “recover from the devastating impact of coronavirus”. He said the UK Government had delivered some £13.3billion of cash to the Scottish Government since the pandemic began a year ago. Mr Sunak added that his Budget, announced earlier this month, would help “support the United Kingdom’s recovery”.
However, Holyrood has clashed with Westminster over funding for Scotland throughout the pandemic.
Last June, a recovery package worth £5billion was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was “extremely underwhelmed” by it.
She said: “This is not new money. This is simply shuffling around money that was in the system.
“I don’t think that’s commensurate with the scale of the challenge we face.”
According to the Daily Record, when the Prime Minister’s official spokesman was asked about the level of cash set to come to Scotland through the proposals at the time, he “simply laughed”.
The UK Government endured another row with the Scottish Government in June last year, as Ms Sturgeon and her SNP colleagues hit out at Mr Sunak.
Ms Sturgeon called for an £80billion stimulus package to help revive the economy north of the border.
The Scottish Government published a paper setting out 10 requests for UK ministers in dealing with the recession, including a call to “avoid a return to the austerity of the past”.
Ms Sturgeon said the proposals were “ambitious but also practical and sustainable”, and would “benefit not just Scotland but the whole of the UK”.
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However, in July 2020, the Scottish Government reacted with disappointment when Mr Sunak announced £30billion of stimulus funding.
Scottish finance secretary Kate Forbes said the figures were “disappointing, underwhelming and fall short of the scale required to reboot the economy”.
She added: “We called for an £80billion stimulus package to build a strong, green and inclusive economic recovery and while there are elements in this announcement to be welcomed, in particular the measures on VAT for tourism and hospitality, overall this package is a huge opportunity missed. It falls well short of delivering what is needed to boost the economy and protect jobs.
“There is no new capital spend, no extension to the furlough scheme for hard-hit sectors and no further support for households in financial difficulty. A half price meal out does not help those struggling to put food on the table.”
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The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford also said the package “failed to deliver”.
The Scottish economy remained stuck in a downturn during February, centred on the services sector, but with manufacturing output returning to growth.
The seasonally adjusted headline figure of the Royal Bank of Scotland Business Activity Index – a measure of combined manufacturing and service sector output – remained well below the 50.0 mark.
Having risen from 33.3 in January and to 44.1 in February, the latest figure pointed to a slower pace of reduction, but one that was still sharp overall.