Scottish ministers ‘have squandered £62bn Britain bonus’

The Scottish Tories say £62bn in fiscal transfers have gone from Westminster to Holyrood since 2007.

The Scottish Government has not done enough with fiscal transfers from other parts of the UK, “squandering” a “Britain bonus” worth £62bn, the Scottish Tories have claimed.

According to research by the party – which it says has been verified by independent parliamentary researchers – £62bn in fiscal transfers have come from Westminster since the SNP took power in 2007.

Fiscal transfers are payments given to regions of the UK from wealthier parts with fiscal surplus, used to address deficits in other areas of the country.

Last financial year, the analysis suggests, Scotland received £10.76bn in transfers from other parts of the UK.

This was to counter the £15.1bn deficit accrued in 2019-20 – as reported in this week’s Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) statistics – and bring it back in line with the population share of the UK deficit.

Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Murdo Fraser accused the Scottish Government of “squandering” what he called the “Britain bonus”, adding that independence for Scotland would also mean the end of these transfers.

But Scotland’s finance secretary Kate Forbes described the Tory research as “desperate stuff” after “a decade of austerity”.

It comes ahead of the latest programme for government, to be set out by Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday.

Fraser said that education and the economy have suffered under the SNP, which took power in Holyrood for the first time in 2007.

The Tory MSP continued: “The SNP has nothing to show for all this extra funding from the rest of the UK.

“On the SNP’s watch, our schools have fallen down international league tables and our economy has struggled to keep up, costing Scotland better jobs and more money for public services.”

He continued: “The money is there right now to improve our economy, create jobs and deliver world class public services.

“Scotland just needs to move on from a government distracted by constant constitutional grievance, so we can focus on the real issues that matter.”

He said money coming from the UK would be “put at risk by the SNP’s demands for independence”, endangering public services.

Fraser went on: “The funding has now reached a staggering £62bn over the period that the SNP have been in office since 2007.

“Without these fiscal transfers, we would be looking at either massive cuts to public spending, enormous tax rises, or a brutal combination of both.”

Kate Forbes said: “This is increasingly desperate stuff from the Tories coming after a decade of austerity, and in the week that the UK national debt topped £2 trillion for the first time.

“Independence will give Scotland the powers we need to grow our economy and invest in our people and public services to create a fairer and wealthier country.”

Under current arrangements, the Scottish Government’s borrowing abilities are restricted, despite repeated calls from Forbes and others to beef up its fiscal powers.

They argue that with full independence, Scotland would be able to borrow to cover its deficit like other independent countries.

The debate comes as support for independence is on the rise, with the most recent Panelbase poll showing 55% of Scots in favour, when undecided voters are removed – reversing the margin in the 2014 referendum.

Two earlier polls also by Panelbase – in June and July – put support at 54%.