Nicola Sturgeon clashes with journalist over Covid questions
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Rishi Sunak, 41, has promised to inject more money into Holyrood’s coffers as the UK’s daily Covid cases surpass 80,000 for the third successive day. The announcement comes after the Scottish Government yet again repeated its calls for the Treasury to provide more support north of the border.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, 51, already pledged to provide Scottish bars and restaurants with a £66million support package.
However, some industry bosses said Ms Sturgeon’s sum was too low to alleviate the pressures facing the hospitality sector.
New guidance on shops, hospitality and other businesses had been introduced in Scotland late last week.
Scottish Hospitality Group spokesman Stephen Montgomery said: “It wouldn’t even cover one or two days of loss of turnover for some people, it certainly wouldn’t cover the wages for one week.
“We’ll take it, of course we will, but there has got to be some ongoing talks between the UK and Scottish Governments – put all political differences aside and get this sorted out.”
Since Mr Montgomery made his comments the Treasury has promised to hand over funds on top of the £220million provided in Mr Sunak’s Autumn Budget.
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Speaking about the additional £220million, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said: “Following discussions with the devolved administrations, we are now doubling the additional funding available.
“We will continue to listen to and work with the devolved administrations in the face of this serious health crisis to ensure we’re getting the booster to people all over the UK and that people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are supported.”
Scotland Secretary Alistair Jack, 58, added: “The UK Government has provided unprecedented support to people in all parts of the UK since the very beginning of the pandemic, and that support continues.
“The Treasury is doubling the up-front funding available for the Scottish Government to £440 million, giving them the financial certainty they need to progress the vaccine rollout and wider Covid-19 response.
“This is on top of extra money which has already been provided to the Scottish Government to support public services during Covid – £6.5 billion in this financial year alone – plus a record core funding settlement of £41 billion a year for the next three years.
“The UK Government is also continuing to support businesses with loans and VAT cuts for our tourism and hospitality sectors.”
The Welsh Government was allocated an extra £270million and Northern Ireland’s Executive was handed £150million.
Cardiff Bay and Stormont received the same amounts during the Autumn Budget.
However, Ms Sturgeon took to social media to question whether the funds would go on top of the money provided in the Chancellor’s recent Budget.
She wrote on Twitter: “Before we get spin on ‘doubling’, the £220m announced last week was NOT new or additional (it was actually £48m less than we had been expecting).
“Seeking confirmation if this new £220m is additional (tho if so £48m will just make up last w/k loss) & if it has to be repaid to the extent it is new/additional, @scotgov will make sure it goes in full to helping business and the overall Covid effort.”
Ms Sturgeon added: “As infections soar and businesses suffer, we still need much more urgency in action/support from UK Gov – so that devolved gov hands not tied.
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“To that end, it was disappointing and frustrating that neither the PM nor the Chancellor attended this evening’s COBRA.”
Ministers in Edinburgh were also critical of Whitehall after it announced £220million in funding earlier this week.
Some even suggested the cash had been brought forward from 2022 and had therefore already been budgeted for.
Holyrood Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, 31, told the BBC “tentative” talks were being held with the Treasury but claimed the Scottish Government quoted £500million in Holyrood’s request.
The Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP added: “Ultimately this is about helping businesses right now that are struggling, but also knowing that when we need more support – because none of us can absolutely for definite know how this variant is going to play out – we know that we can access additional support for businesses.”
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