Holyrood pushes for more powers to aid Covid-19 recovery

In a joint letter with minister from Wales and Nothern Ireland, Kate Forbes said the powers would ease 'pressures on our budget'.

The Scottish finance secretary has joined forces with ministers from the devolved administrations of Northern Ireland and Wales to push for more fiscal powers from the UK Government.

A joint message sent to Chancellor Rishi Sunak ahead of his summer statement on Wednesday requests “relatively limited powers” they believe will help to bolster the recovery of each country.

The three ministers are asking for the Chancellor to allow capital spending to be moved over to day-to-day revenue as well as an end to “arbitrary” limits on borrowing.

Finance secretary Kate Forbes said any funding used to secure the recovery and pay for public services would need to be found from elsewhere in its budget.

The MSP said: “They are relatively limited powers but would ease some of the immense pressures on our budget and give us more tools to kick-start our recovery.

“At the moment, any extra money spent bolstering services and supporting the economic recovery must be taken from other areas.

“That creates risks for our essential public services, jobs and businesses.

“I am therefore calling on the Chancellor to ease these rigid fiscal rules and give us the flexibility we need to properly address the monumental challenges our economy is facing.”

Forbes added she would like to see “greater ambition in the level of investment in our economy”.

She pointed to a proposal outlined last week by the Scottish Government for £80bn of UK-wide investment.

“What is needed at this time of crisis is bold and practical policies that will boost consumption, promote investment and protect jobs,” she said.

Rebecca Evans, who holds the finance portfolio in Wales, said the response from her Government had been “hampered” by current fiscal rules.

She said: “There is no clear rationale for these rules, which undermine good budget management in Wales,”

Northern Ireland Finance Minister Conor Murphy said it is “crucial” for devolved administrations to be given the powers allowing them to “respond swiftly and effectively” to the challenges presented by Covid-19.

He added: “More financial flexibility can help us deal with these challenges and use our budgets to support public services, protect the vulnerable and deliver an economic recovery.”

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