Rishi Sunak’s promise of record funding for Scotland, with the Chancellor claiming the Holyrood Government will receive £41bn a year, has been questioned by Scotland’s finance secretary.
Sunak said the amount of cash the Scottish Government receives as a result of the Barnett formula would increase by an average of £4.6bn a year.
And he said the “record funding” he was providing the Scottish Government would allow it to “tackle backlogs in the NHS” that have built up during the Covid pandemic.
Sunak insisted that his Budget “delivers, in real terms, the largest block grants for the devolved administrations since the devolution settlement of 1998”.
But Scottish finance secretary, Kate Forbes, said: “In reality, the Scottish Government will receive less grant funding in every year of the spending review than it has in 2021-22, despite the continuing challenges presented by Covid.”
She also hit out at the Chancellor after he promised a cut in Air Passenger Duty on domestic flights from April 2023 – announcing this just days before the global COP26 climate change summit gets underway in Glasgow.
“No-one would guess from this Budget that COP26 is taking place next week,” Forbes said.
However, the lower rate of APD on flights within the UK will “help cut the cost of living” for travellers and will also “bring people together across the United Kingdom”, Sunak said.
Chief secretary to the Treasury, Simon Clarke, also insisted that with the UK “decarbonising massively”, any “fractional increase” in emissions as a result of the changes would be “more than offset by the wider changes we are making”.
Clarke said: “The UK has a great record by leading the world by decarbonising but also growing our economy the most.
“The announcement today on Air Passenger Duty is something I am really pleased to see. It supports regional airports within Scotland and across England as well.”
And Sunak insisted his Budget, the second one he has produced this year, was “tackling climate change”.
The Chancellor said: “This is a budget for the whole of the UK. We’re focused on what matters most to the British people: the health of their loved ones, access to world-class public services, jobs for the future and tackling climate change.
“By providing record funding, the Scottish Government can tackle backlogs in the NHS and ensure people in Scotland get the support they need as we recover from the pandemic.”
The Scottish Secretary, Alister Jack, insisted that the Budget package, which included a simplification of the alcohol duty system and changes to Universal Credit to allow those in work to keep more of their wages, showed the UK Government’s “commitment to level up right across the UK”.
Jack declared: “The Budget delivers for people in Scotland, and right across the UK.
“The Scottish Government’s block grant, boosted by an additional £4.6bn a year due to spending in England, means that the funding for the Scottish Government is the highest it has ever been.”
As well as the cash which will go to the Scottish Government, more than £170m is being awarded directly to infrastructure projects in Scotland as part of the Levelling Up Fund.
Forbes said this approach means that “money Scotland would have previously received under the seven-year, EU Structural Fund programmes to spend according to its own needs will now be distributed annually according to a UK Government agenda”.
She hit out and said: “This approach potentially leaves Scotland worse off, raises value for money concerns and undermines devolution.
Jack, however, said: “The Budget ushers in an era of real devolution, ensuring money is spent on projects that matter most to people in Scotland.
“From the Knoydart community pub, to Dumbarton town centre and the Granton Gasworks – all these projects will bring real, visible improvements for local communities.”
He added that special funding for “Glasgow’s iconic Burrell Collection” and for the Extreme E race event for electric vehicles in the Hebrides would “help drive economic growth and jobs on the back of culture and tourism”.
The Scottish Conservative leader, Douglas Ross, hailed the package of measures as being “outstanding news for jobs and public services in Scotland”.
Ross said: “The strength and security of the United Kingdom has helped us through the pandemic, and the announcement of the biggest, block grant since devolution will ensure Scottish public services are protected going forward.”
But the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Alex Cole-Hamilton, said the Chancellor had “missed the chance to avoid a cost-of-living crisis which will cause sleepless nights for families up and down the country”.
He said: “Instead, the Chancellor focused on cutting taxes for airlines. This will make it easier for Conservative ministers to get to Cop26 but harder to tackle the climate emergency. ”
Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary, Ian Murray, also hit out, he said: “The Budget today shows how out of touch the Chancellor’s priorities are with the rest of the country.
“A week before the global climate conference in Glasgow, he is cutting taxes on flights and champagne while working people face the highest taxes since the Second World War.”