Budget: Coronavirus to dominate as Forbes asks for clarity

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will deliver his first UK Budget later amid calls for additional support and measures to tackle Covid-19.

Budget: Calls for 'clarity' on coronavirus plan. Getty Images
Budget: Calls for 'clarity' on coronavirus plan.

New Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to deliver his first UK Budget in the shadow of the coronavirus outbreak.

His Scottish counterpart, finance secretary Kate Forbes, has said she wants “clarity” on what additional support may be available to Scotland to help deal with Covid-19.

Sunak, the second-youngest ever Chancellor, was promoted to the role after his predecessor Sajid Javid resigned during a No 10 reshuffle.

The Budget, which usually takes place in the Autumn, was delayed as a result of Brexit and last December’s general election.

The circumstances led to Scottish ministers taking the unusual step of revealing their tax and spending plans prior to the UK Budget.

Visiting Westminster on Tuesday for a meeting with the chief secretary of the Treasury, Steve Barclay, Forbes praised both the Scottish and UK governments for working well together on dealing with the coronavirus.

She continued: “It’s clear there will be an impact (from coronavirus) and we’re calling for a package of support.

“But it’s critically important we have clarity on what the Treasury intends to do and we can work jointly together.”

The finance secretary said Barclay had promised to give her more information.

Among potential measures the UK Government could take to support the economy against coronavirus-related disruption is a reduction in VAT, possibly targeted at certain affected sectors.

Forbes said that was an issue the Scottish Government “would like to see movement on”.

On additional funding and other economic measures to deal with coronavirus, she added: “We need information now because obviously the matter is urgent and in terms of the operational response, that has been done at pace.

“We can’t wait for the figures – we need those now in order to be able to respond.”

Analysis: This could be a ‘holding budget’

by STV Westminster correspondent Kathryn Samson

Kate Forbes says the UK and Scottish governments have been working well together in terms of the response to coronavirus on the ground.

But when it comes to money and resources, it doesn’t seem that she came away from Tuesday’s meeting with any firm figures.

She says she’s expecting a call from the chief secretary to the Treasury this morning – and she really needs this information as soon as possible so she can make her own plans.

Bear in mind, some believe the impact of coronavirus could be as serious as the financial crash of 2008.

Rishi Sunak, like Kate Forbes, is not long in his job – and both share the experience of facing extraordinary sets of circumstances in delivering their first budgets.

I understand that coronavirus means that while some projects will get the green light tomorrow, this is really going to feel like a holding budget.

There could be a spending review over the summer and then the likelihood of another budget in the Autumn.

It’s worth mentioning too that Cobra, the UK Government’s emergency planning committee which has been involving their Scottish counterparts since the coronavirus outbreak began, will meet again today to discuss the latest developments and advice.

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