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New UK Government Covid funding will leave Scotland worse off, says Sturgeon

The First Minister said Scotland will be millions of pounds ‘worse off’ next year with the Covid funding being less than she expected.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (Jeff J Mitchell/PA)

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (Jeff J Mitchell/PA)

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (Jeff J Mitchell/PA)

Nicola Sturgeon has said the UK Government’s offer of £220 million to help Scotland in the fight against the coronavirus has left the country millions of pounds “worse off”.

Following a Cobra meeting on Wednesday, HM Treasury announced a total of £430 million of additional funding from the UK Reserve will be made available to the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to progress their vaccine rollout with Omicron cases on the rise.

Additional in-year Barnett funding – the formula used by the Treasury to automatically adjust the amounts of public expenditure allocated to the devolved nations – will not be confirmed until early 2022, the Treasury added.

Ms Sturgeon took aim at the UK Government, saying the money is not what the Treasury claims is “additional funding”, but is instead cash “being brought forward from money we were expecting in January and had already budgeted for”.

In a tweet the First Minister said Scotland will be £48 million worse off next year as a result.

She added: “The net effect of yesterday’s Treasury announcement appears to be that the Scottish Government is £48m worse off than we thought we were before the announcement.

“The total we were expecting in January was £268m.

“There is though a more fundamental point. Each of the four UK governments is responsible for protecting public health in their own country.

“But only when UK Government takes decisions for England is funding triggered, leaving the rest of us trying to protect health with one hand tied.”

Ahead of the funding statement Ms Sturgeon branded the UK Government’s announcement to provide extra cash as “Treasury smoke and mirrors”.

She also insisted Scotland’s response to the pandemic had been “curtailed” by a lack of cash.

Following the Cobra meeting on Wednesday, Scotland’s Finance Secretary Kate Forbes wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak urging more action needs to be taken to deal with the impact of the Omicron variant.

She described the £220 million sum as “entirely inadequate” in the face of cases rising sharply across the country.

“I am concerned that the current total of £220 million does not represent additional funding, as it essentially covers two items the Scottish Government had been previously notified of or represents anticipated funding related to pre-Omicron levels of Covid,” she said.

“Indeed, not only is this funding quite clearly not additional, given £268 million of consequentials had been anticipated and largely budgeted for, the net effect of the announcement yesterday is to reduce our ability to fund public health measures not increase it.”

“More fundamentally, it is not a tenable position that funding is only triggered in relation to public health decisions in England.

“This directly inhibits our ability to protect jobs, lives and the NHS.”

She added: “Without appropriate additional funding provided now, we will not be able to take decisions to protect public health and the wider economy at this critical juncture when we are trying to both slow the spread of the new variant and provide the financial support necessary to allow that.”

In response, a UK Government spokesperson said: “We are giving the devolved administrations the certainty they need to spend more money in the coming weeks – exactly as they have asked for.

“The usual practice would be to wait for confirmed additional Barnett funding in the new year.

“This money is additional to the Devolved Administrations’ annual funding as confirmed at the Autumn Budget.

“We continue to engage with the Scottish Government in the face of this serious health crisis.”

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