More than £9bn spent on Covid support, says minister

Tom Arthur said the support went further than the money passed on from the UK Government for Covid assistance.

More than £9bn spent on Covid support, says minister PA Ready

The Scottish Government spent more than £9bn on coronavirus support in the last financial year, a minister has said.

Finance minister Tom Arthur said the support went further than the money passed on from the UK Government for Covid assistance.

Arthur gave a financial update to MSPs on Thursday as part of the provisional budget outturn for 2020-21.

He said the Scottish Government had fulfilled its obligation to deliver a balanced budget in the financial year, with 99% of the £48.5bn budget spent.

The remainder will be carried over into reserve funds to support pandemic recovery, he said.

Arthur told MSPs: “Every penny received by the Scottish Government to tackle Covid-19 has been channelled to where it was needed the most.

“To date, we have announced over 170 Covid initiatives, providing bespoke financial support to businesses, individuals and organisations to support them through the pandemic.

“In 2020/21 we allocated more than £9bn to support the health, economic and social challenges created by this pandemic.

“This is more than the Covid funding passed to us by the UK Government.”

He said this included £3bn for health and public health, a further £3bn for Scottish businesses and £1bn for local government.

The minister repeated the Scottish Government’s call for further financial flexibility in its funding arrangement with the UK Government.

He continued: “What is not in doubt is that significant budget challenges lie ahead.

“And these funding challenges will continue as we target our resources at stimulating a safe, swift and sustainable recovery for our communities, our public services and our economy.”

Opposition MSPs asked about underspends in certain areas of the budget.

Scottish Conservative finance spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “There continues to be a large sum of public money which many sectors want to see spent as a matter of urgent support.

“For example, there is an underspend in the health budget of £183m, and at the same time there is obviously a backlog of health treatment.

“These are very serious issues.”

Arthur replied: “With regard to the health underspend, that came about due to late consequentials of £200m and it was judged that this was not going to align with public health spending cycles.”

He said the money will be deployed at the “optimal moment” rather than within the financial year.

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