Sturgeon slammed for independence ‘obsession’ by Alister Jack
Amid constitutional wrangling over a second independence vote, SNP ministers are finalising their plans on a plan to “recover and renew” from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Scottish Finance Secretary, who will present her plan to MSPs on Thursday, has been at loggerheads with her Treasury counterparts over how funds should be controlled as Nationalist ministers hold down their position on Scottish independence.
But in pre-budget consultations, the Scottish Finance Secretary said sectors have stressed the need for targeted support, which she claims will be delivered.
However, Chancellor Rishi Sunak told the SNP led Scottish Government to acknowledge the support the UK Government was providing during the coronavirus pandemic.
Questions have also been raised by the Scottish Conservatives as to whether millions of pounds of Brexit funds had been spent or whether the SNP led administration was stashing away cash.
Maurice Golden MSP, the party’s economy spokesperson, claimed the SNP was “not lifting a finger” over spending.
At the same time, Treasury figures revealed Scottish firms had benefited from more than £3.4billion of UK Government-backed loans to protect and support jobs across the country.
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They reveal 86,000 loans have supported businesses across all sectors, protecting UK jobs.
Dividing the total spent by the number of loans reveals an average of £39,534 “Union boost” has been given to Scottish business, the data shows.
Alongside this, Tory UK ministers also say they have protected 930,000 jobs through the furlough job-retention scheme and provided £8.6billion in Barnet consequentials to the SNP led administration in Edinburgh.
Speaking today, Mr Sunak said: “Throughout this crisis, we have provided more than £280billion of support to protect jobs and livelihoods up and down the country.
“We are committed to continuing to ensure jobs are protected and opportunity is created.”
Alister Jack, Secretary of State for Scotland, added: “Throughout the pandemic, the UK Government has taken quick and unprecedented action to protect jobs and support businesses in Scotland.
“Today’s figures speak for themselves, over 90,000 businesses across Scotland have benefitted from £3.4billion in UK-Government backed loans providing a vital lifeline and certainty to plan for the months ahead.
“As we continue to see throughout this pandemic, the strength of the Union and support offered by the UK Treasury has never been more important.”
Angry business owners also claim they haven’t received support from the Scottish Government.
One Scottish business owner claimed in a Scottish business group: “My business is in its second lockdown and I am qualifying for no money apart from loans.
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“She [Nicola Sturgeon] is stashing that money for her independence push.”
Amjid Bashir, who owns Newsbox on Glasgow’s Queen Street, said he has been excluded from all financial grants despite being classed as an “essential business”.
He said: “I have applied for so many grants but we’ve been told that because we are deemed as an essential business, we aren’t eligible to receive them.”
Pamela Nash, chief executive of campaign group Scotland in Union stressed the importance of the UK Government helping to add money to the Scottish budget.
The former Labour MP said: “All this at a time when we need our political leaders to be completely focussed on rebuilding our country. It will take time; that is not in doubt.
“And while there has been an unprecedented level of support for businesses, with more than £8billion added to the Scottish budget from the UK government to assist the COVID-19 response, jobs and livelihoods will still be at risk for years to comes.
“It’s clear what 2021 must be about: recovery.
“That must be the focus of both the coming Scottish election campaign and the parliamentary term which follows.”
However, in a hit back at Westminster, Ms Forbes said the UK Budget delay until March by the Chancellor had caused “significant difficulties” in the process north of the border.
Ms Forbes also said there would not be a public-sector pay freeze similar to that announced by the UK Government and staff would be offered a settlement that was “fair and affordable” in Thursday’s budget.
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In a statement released today, she also hinted at the extension of rates relief for businesses but said the Scottish Government currently has “limited resources” with which to offer such support due to the delay in the UK Government’s spending pledges announcement.
Ms Forbes said: “The budget on Thursday will create the conditions for Scotland to recover and renew.
“The budget will include innovative, targeted measures to help businesses and families get back on their feet and bolster our vital public services.”
In an effort to secure cross-party support for the budget, Ms Forbes continued: “The global pandemic and the problems arising from Brexit combine to make these uniquely challenging times.
“This budget will help Scotland emerge as a globally competitive, fairer and greener country, and I urge all parties to work in the national interest to ensure it is passed by the Scottish Parliament.”
Last night, Scottish Government officials denied independence funds were being “stashed away”.
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