Nicola Sturgeon slammed for 'underspend' on coronavirus funding
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On Monday, the Treasury said it would hike up funding for the devolved administrations, allocating an extra £860million, in order to strengthen responses in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to the Omicron variant. Within this, £440million was destined for Scotland. The UK Government said the extra money would be added on top of the funds listen in the autumn Budget from this year.
The Treasury said this funding would be kept “under review”, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak adding that Westminster intended to ” listen to and work with the devolved administrations in the face of this serious health crisis”.
Mr Sunak said: “Following discussions with the devolved administrations, we are now doubling the additional funding available.
“We will continue to listen to and work with the devolved administrations in the face of this serious health crisis to ensure we’re getting the booster to people all over the UK and that people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are supported.”
The financial boost was announced in a COBRA meeting by MP Steve Barclay, attended by the devolved leaders.
Ms Sturgeon, taking to Twitter, responded to the announcement with scorn for Westminster’s offer, and the way in which it was presented.
She said on the meeting: “It was disappointing and frustrating that neither the PM nor the Chancellor attended this evening’s COBRA.”
Following the meeting, a spokesperson for Ms Sturgeon commented: “We need more urgency, greater clarity and faster action from the UK. The need is real and the need is now.
“In the face of the clear advice of public health experts, it is impossible to understand why the UK still refuses to act.”
Then turning to the funding itself, she tweeted that, “before we get spin on ‘doubling’”, she wanted to clarify that “the £220m announced last week was NOT new or additional (it was actually £48m less than we had been expecting).
“Seeking confirmation if this new £220m is additional (tho if so £48m will just make up last w/k loss) & if it has to be repaid.”
She added: “To the extent, it is new/additional, @scotgov will make sure it goes in full to helping business and the overall Covid effort.
“As infections soar and businesses suffer, we still need much more urgency in action/support from UK Gov – so that devolved gov hands not tied.”
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Last week, the First Minister had claimed that the Treasury’s initial allocation of £220million for Scotland’s COVID-19 response would leave the country “worse off than we thought we were”.
She said that the £220million was “being brought forward from money we were expecting in January and had already budgeted for”.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “The UK Government has provided unprecedented support to people in all parts of the UK since the very beginning of the pandemic, and that support continues.
“The Treasury is doubling the up-front funding available for the Scottish Government to £440 million, giving them the financial certainty they need to progress the vaccine rollout and wider Covid-19 response.
“This is on top of extra money which has already been provided to the Scottish Government to support public services during Covid – £6.5 billion in this financial year alone – plus a record core funding settlement of £41 billion a year for the next three years.
“The UK Government is also continuing to support businesses with loans and VAT cuts for our tourism and hospitality sectors.”
On Monday, Ms Sturgeon ruled out further restrictions coming into force in Scotland before Christmas Day.
The First Minister last week issued guidance for Scots to be as careful as possible when mixing households in the run-up to Christmas.
Further updates from the First Minister on the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 response after record positive coronavirus tests on Monday are expected on Tuesday.
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