Sturgeon squirms over SNP’s ‘financial incompetence’ as she earmarks £20m for indyref2

Nicola Sturgeon grilled on 'financial incompetence' by Kerr

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Nicola Sturgeon reiterated calls for a second independence referendum after she was grilled by Scottish Conservative Stephen Kerr over Scotland’s finances. Public services such as early years learning, universities, courts, police and fire and rescue services will see their budgets frozen for the next five years to increase spending elsewhere. While Ms Sturgeon has earmarked £20 million for another vote to be held before the end of 2023.

Speaking to MSPs, Mr Kerr said: “Yesterday we heard yet again about the impact of the SNP’s financial incompetence.

“Public services facing drastic spending cuts in areas including education, local authorities and the police.

“Does the First Minister agree with the Scottish Police Federation that the spending review has been good for criminals?”

Ms Sturgeon replied: “No, I don’t. This Government has supported more police officers and we have one of the lowest rates of recorded crime in this country since 1974, a 41 percent reduction in recorded crimes since this Government took office.

“I am delighted that the Tories keep getting up in this chamber and talking about public spending because it gives me the opportunity to remind them that the amount of money this Government has to spend is largely decided by Tories at Westminster.

“That’s what’s wrong with the situation.

“This year, a budget that is lower in real terms by more than 5 percent and is projected to continue to be constrained, notwithstanding the rate of inflation hitting 10 percent.

“The sooner this Government is in charge of its own finances and gets them out of the hands of the Tories at Westminster with independence, the better.”

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It comes as Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson has refused to say whether £20 million allocated for a second independence referendum would be redeployed to other services if a vote is delayed or cancelled.

Mr Robertson was joined by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes at the Scottish Parliament’s Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee to discuss the challenges facing the culture portfolio – which he is also in charge of – following last week’s spending review.

The Scottish Government received a backlash over the £20 million funding allocation as other services, such as local government and policing, saw their funding capped – resulting in real-terms cuts over the next five years.

Mr Robertson told MSPs his party has no plans to delay or postpone an independence vote by the end of 2023.

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He said the SNP was given a mandate to hold the vote in the 2021 Scottish Parliament election after it secured the most seats.

During the committee session on Thursday, Conservative MSP Donald Cameron asked about potential delays caused by an independence Bill being scrutinised by Parliament.

He said: “There is a question as to the timetable. We know we await a referendum Bill and we know that has to be consulted upon. Legislation takes time and there is the potential for litigation.

“It is possible that either the timetable will slip or a referendum won’t happen, and if that transpires will you redeploy the funding of £20 million within the culture portfolio given the very significant and severe challenges the portfolio faces?”

The committee had previously heard how the sector is struggling to bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent cost-of-living crisis.

Mr Robertson said: “Mr Cameron left out the other option of course, which is that the UK Government respects the result of the Scottish Parliament election and that Prime Minister Boris Johnson acts in the exact same way as his predecessor David Cameron acted. Scottish politics, as this Mr Cameron on this committee knows, is full of UK Government saying ‘no, no, no, yes’.”

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