Rishi Sunak has been left red-faced after Treasury officials wrongly announced £375 million of “additional” coronavirus support cash for Scotland.
The Treasury announced a £4.6 billion support package for UK businesses on Tuesday morning, of which £375 million in “additional funding” would be given to Holyrood.
But it has since transpired that the cash for Scotland is not new and, in fact, forms part of an £8.6 billion fund announced in previous statements.
The original Treasury press release sent out stated the £375 million would be “on top of the increased funding which has already been guaranteed by the UK Government”.
It has since transpired that this isn’t actually ‘additional support’ because it isn’t additional to previously allocated funding for the Scottish Government from the UK Government. https://t.co/0q1WXAGwsG
— Kate Forbes MSP (@KateForbesMSP) January 5, 2021
However, officials later corrected the gaffe and said it would “contribute to the funding which has already been guaranteed by the UK Government”.
‘A blow to Scottish businesses’
Scottish finance secretary Kate Forbes said she was “both surprised and disappointed” the funding was not new and would form part of cash that had already been announced by Westminster.
Ms Forbes said she would be writing to the chancellor for clarification.
She said: “This is a blow to Scottish businesses, whose expectations had been raised by the announcement.”
Scottish Labour accused the Tory government of short-changing Scotland by reneging on the promise.
Labour’s Jackie Baillie MSP said: “It only took the Tory government a matter of minutes to renege on its commitment of additional funding for Scotland on top of the UK-wide support scheme announced today.
“This is an embarrassing U-turn that leaves Scottish businesses and workers short-changed.”
This funding is part of our existing Covid funding guarantee and is not new money. @WelshGovernment is already providing the most generous support package anywhere in the UK and will continue to support Welsh businesses through these difficult times.
— Rebecca Evans (@wgmin_finance) January 5, 2021
Jack cites UK Government aid
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack hit back, saying the Scottish Government had been provided with billions of pounds.
He said: “As throughout this crisis, the UK Government’s priority remains to keep people safe and support jobs in all parts of the UK.
“The Chancellor has set out additional support for businesses in England. We hope the Scottish Government uses some of the £8.6 billion we have provided to support struggling Scottish businesses similarly.
“This is on top of the direct UK Government support for people and businesses in Scotland – including our furlough scheme now extended to the end of April, self-employed support, business loans and procuring and paying for millions of doses of the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines.
“The strength of the union and support offered by the UK Treasury has never been more important.”