Scotland’s finance secretary has asked the UK Government if extra funding will be provided following the release of a £3.3bn package for Northern Ireland.
The funding was announced in December but could be released if Stormont reconvenes following the UK Government deal with the DUP on post-Brexit trade.
The deal will see the replacement of the previous Windsor Framework process – which requires a percentage of goods to be checked as they arrive in Great Britain – with a “UK internal market system” that will govern the movement of goods that remain within the United Kingdom.
Checks on goods would still be carried out but in a risk-based, intelligence-led model to combat illegality and disease, rather than routine stops of disembarking lorries.
If Stormont returns – which could happen as early as Saturday if Westminster legislation is passed this week – the executive in Northern Ireland, expected to be led by its first nationalist first minister in Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill, will be able to access the cash to help with public service pressures.
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood on Thursday, Humza Yousaf welcomed the news Stormont could reconvene after two years but said his deputy had inquired about what the £3.3bn would mean for Scotland.
“There was a £3.3bn package offered by the Secretary of State (Chris Heaton-Harris) to address public spending and for pay pressures in Northern Ireland, which I have to say is welcome,” the First Minister said.
“These pressures exist in Scotland and I suspect they exist in Wales too, so I know that the Deputy First Minister has raised with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, as did her Welsh counterpart, that the devolved governments should be treated fairly in line with the Barnett formula.”
The Treasury has been contacted for comment.
A command paper published this week by the UK Government laying out its plans for Northern Ireland also showed there would be no border control posts at Cairnryan – a major hub in the southwest of Scotland for goods travelling across the Irish Sea – while also suggesting exploring extending a proposed “investment zone” to the Cairnryan and Stranraer area.
Such a zone, mirroring others in the rest of the UK, will provide tax incentives and other interventions to attract business.
Yousaf, however, said there had been no meaningful consultation with the Scottish Government on the plans and they had not seen the proposals before they were published this week.
“It would be fair to say we weren’t given any advanced sight of the command paper that was published by the UK Government yesterday, there was no meaningful engagement by the Westminster Government,” he said.
“The UK Government appears to have unilaterally decided that there will be no border control post at Cairnryan – it’s not a decision that they have consulted us on.”
A UK Government spokesperson said: “Given Northern Ireland has been without a functioning devolved government for a significant period of time, there are unique and immediate challenges compared to elsewhere in the UK.
“The package the UK Government has agreed recognises these and supports the sustainability of its public finances.
“The Scottish Government has a separate fiscal framework agreed in 2023 and is well funded to deliver on its devolved responsibilities through the record £41bn per year it receives.”
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