Nicola Sturgeon has insisted that allocating £20m for an independence referendum in the Scottish Government’s spending plans is a “really good investment”.
It comes after finance secretary Kate Forbes on Tuesday set out the resource spending review at Holyrood.
The plans include funding of £20m for a vote on whether Scotland should become an independent country, to be held next year.
However, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the allocation was “shameful” in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis.
Scotland’s First Minister defended the spending plans and said that her government are having to mitigate the cost of decisions taken at Westminster.
The issue was raised by Ross at First Minister’s Questions – this week being held on Wednesday instead of Thursday due to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
“Can I ask the First Minister, in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, with so many families struggling, why is her government allocating another £20m for an independence referendum?” asked Ross.
The First Minister criticised the UK Government for the Scottish Government’s budget’s being cut.
“Can I thank Douglas Ross warmly for giving me the opportunity today to set out exactly why giving the people of Scotland an opportunity to choose a better future is so important at this particular moment in time,” she responded.
“The resource spending review that Kate Forbes set out yesterday in many ways sets out the very heavy price that people across Scotland are paying right now for continued Westminster decision-making.
“UK Government decisions have cut our budget this year by more than 5% in real-terms, they will constrain growth in our budget over the next four years to 2%, while inflation is close to 10%.
“Inflation in the UK of course which thanks to the folly of Brexit is the highest of any G7 country.
“Every year right now, the Scottish Government is having to invest more than £700m mitigating the impact of Westminster policies that Scotland did not vote for – the bedroom tax, the rape clause, the removal of Universal Credit, plunging more people into poverty.
“So, yes, Presiding Officer, I think that £20m, 0.05%, one-half of one-tenth, of one percent of the entire Scottish Government budget, to give the people of this country the opportunity to choose a better future, yes, is and will be a really good investment.”
Ross claimed that Sturgeon is “obsessing about independence” instead of focusing on other issues.
He said: “The First Minister’s answer never once mentioned the cost-of-living crisis that Scots are facing right now. Never once even attempted to address that issue.
“She gets very excited, very animated speaking about independence and dividing our country all over again, but not a single word to the people struggling right now who do not understand why her government is prioritising another independence referendum.
“Because spending £20m on a divisive referendum in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis is shameful.
“Nicola Sturgeon’s eye is off the ball all over again. She is obsessing about independence when people across Scotland overwhelmingly want the focus to be on the issues that really matter to them.”