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Funding IndyRef with Budget cash would be ‘very bad use of money’ – Jack

The Scottish Secretary said none of the money given to the Scottish Government should be used to ‘promote separation’.

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Scottish Secretary Alister Jack spoke to PA following the Budget announcement by Chancellor Rishi Sunak (Aaron Chown/PA)

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack spoke to PA following the Budget announcement by Chancellor Rishi Sunak (Aaron Chown/PA)

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack spoke to PA following the Budget announcement by Chancellor Rishi Sunak (Aaron Chown/PA)

Funding an independence referendum using the cash given to the Scottish Government in the UK Budget would be a “very, very bad use of that money”, according to Alister Jack.

The Scottish Secretary said that a £2 billion funding boost for Scotland as part of the block grant should instead be used to improve public services in the country.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Mr Jack said that he does not believe any of the funding should be used to “promote separation”.

Mr Jack said: “It’s a £2 billion boost for the Scottish block grant, I think it takes it to north of £35 billion next year.

“I would like obviously the Scottish Government to use it to improve upon their failing public services – I’d like to see education standards improve, I’d like to see hospitals that are being built properly, I’d like to see ferries that are being built and delivered on time and I’d like local authorities to receive more money.

“I’d like all those things, it’s for the Scottish Government to decide. The money goes to them in a block grant, it’s entirely devolved and then they decide how they want to spend it.”

Asked whether the money could be used to fund a second Scottish independence referendum, Mr Jack said: “I would think that would be a very, very bad use of that money.

“The UK Government sends block grant money to Scotland every year and the deficit under the GERS report, the financial report produced by the Scottish Government, is £12.6 billion.

“I don’t think any of the money they get should be used to promote separation, I believe that they should be lauding the union dividend which is £2,000 per man, woman and child of increased spending in Scotland over the rest of the UK.”

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Budget 2020: How money is being spent (PA Graphics)

Chancellor Rishi Sunak also announced plans to establish Treasury offices in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as a new economic campus in the north of England.

Mr Jack suggested that the move would help to boost the economy across the UK.

He said: “Well it’s taking civil servants out of London. It’s not dissimilar to what the BBC did with Salford, they’re taking people north. That helps the economy, you’re spreading the civil service workforce into other parts of the UK.

“It’s a very good way of taking salaries that are being paid and spent in other parts of the UK which boosts the economy, helps local shops, helps local restaurants, pubs and hotels, and everything else.

“So it’s just very good for the economy to do that, to not have everything London-centric.”

Asked whether giving the UK Government an increased presence in Scotland was a key factor around Budget decision-making, Mr Jack said: “Yes, I mean we’ve got the new Queen Elizabeth House (in Edinburgh) which will be opening in June down near Waverley.

“There will be 3,000 – from a number of different departments – UK Government civil servants working in that building and you know, that’s a great boost for that part of Edinburgh.”

The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, said: “The UK government’s Budget is merely a sticking plaster given the Tories have presided over a decade of austerity and decline – hitting Scotland’s economy, people’s livelihoods, and jobs.

“The Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) has confirmed that Scotland is owed around £5.8 billion if the proper Barnett consequentials were applied to the DUP Brexit bung and the additional monies since.

“That’s added on to the £175 million still owed to the Scottish Police Authority and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. The UK government have made a choice to rob Scotland’s public services of that money.

“The reality is that people across Scotland will see through the gimmick of a Treasury office in Scotland given it’s the very same UK government department that has repeatedly failed Scotland’s economic needs.

“The SNP Scottish Government has worked to protect Scotland from the very worst of Westminster austerity – and from the damage of Brexit. Mitigating the bedroom tax and sweeping cuts to public services – all while its own budget faces savage cuts from the UK government. This is simply not sustainable.

“Westminster is not acting in Scotland’s interests and it’s clear that the people of Scotland must have the choice of a better future as an independent country.”

PA