SNP accused of ‘secrecy over spending £8.8m UK ‘Union’ cash

John Swinney discusses travel restrictions in Scotland

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The Scottish Government says it has spent £8.8billion of £9.3billion allocated by the UK Government through the Barnett formula in 2020/21. But a report out today by Audit Scotland has called for better transparency around what is classed as COVID-19 spending across different government portfolios.

The report, produced by Stephen Boyle, Scotland’s Auditor General, noted over 300 individual spending measures have been made by SNP ministers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The largest volume of cash was allocated to business, health and social care, and local government.

However, Mr Boyle warned as Scotland moved into the recovery phase from the pandemic then “it will likely become increasingly difficult to define what is, and what isn’t COVID-19 spending”.

He said: “The Scottish Government is managing financial pressures which predate the pandemic, such as spending on health and social care.

“That means difficult decisions lie ahead and, despite the challenges, it increases the need for a medium-term plan to manage the levels of uncertainty and volatility facing the Scottish budget.”

Mr Boyle stressed: “Transparency is essential but challenging in a fast-moving and unpredictable environment.”

The report also noted that difficult budget decisions lie ahead for the SNP-led Scottish Government as Scotland recovers from the pandemic.

£1.15billion in Barnett formula funding was carried over to the 2021/22 Scottish Government budget from 2020/21.

However, the UK Government has not guaranteed the same level of Barnett formula funding for 2021/22, as it did in 2020/21.

The lack of clarity over funding, Mr Boyle stressed, made medium-term financial planning and dealing with uncertainties arising from the pandemic “more challenging”.

But Liz Smith MSP, Scottish Conservative finance spokesperson, said last night: “I think the public will find it unacceptable that the Scottish Government has been distributing COVID-19 funds without fair and proper scrutiny.

“The public will be deeply concerned by the secrecy and the lack of information on where so much funding went.

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“Yet again, the SNP are blatantly attempting to dodge accountability and hide from their long-term failures.

“The SNP Government must urgently make their pandemic spending open to fair and comprehensive scrutiny, so that we can ensure Covid funding is being spent responsibly.”

John Ferry, Scottish Lib Dem finance representative called for safeguards to be put in place to identify differences in funding.

He added: “These figures show the vast scale of additional resources provided by the Treasury to support Scottish households and businesses, via the Scottish Government, through the pandemic.


“However, with such large sums at play we need proper safeguards in place to ensure government spending is effectively accounted for.

“The lack of transparency and accountability needs to be addressed as a priority. Good governance requires it.”

But a Scottish Government spokesperson said in response: “Every penny the Scottish Government has received to support its COVID-19 response has either been spent or allocated.

“We endeavour to be fully transparent and the Finance Secretary detailed to Parliament where the additional £1.15billion in consequentials, which were confirmed too late to be utilised in the last financial year, are being spent.

“This includes extending rates relief for retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation businesses for the whole of 2021/22.

“We are pleased Audit Scotland recognises the challenge the Scottish Government faces in managing its budget without clarity on how much funding it will receive.

“Despite repeated requests, the UK Government has so far refused to guarantee the level of COVID-19-related Barnett consequentials this year, despite doing so in 2020/21.

“We continue to press for this certainty, along with the additional fiscal flexibilities which would enable us to drive Scotland’s pandemic recovery more effectively.”



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