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Scottish Government cannot mitigate impact of Brexit, Kate Forbes warns

Kate Forbes and Nicola Sturgeon - Image credit: Jane Barlow/PA Wire/PA Images

Scottish Government cannot mitigate impact of Brexit, Kate Forbes warns

The Scottish Government cannot mitigate the impact of Brexit in Scotland, Kate Forbes has warned.

Speaking at Holyrood’s fringe event on the Future of Financial Services in Scotland, sponsored by The City of London and TheCityUK, the finance secretary warned that a lack of information from the UK Government had left businesses unable to prepare for the changes brought by Brexit, and that the Scottish Government would be unable to step in to replace EU funding.

Forbes said figures in government had hoped to have confirmation from Chancellor Rishi Sunak that the UK Government would cover the loss of financial support currently provided by the EU during his recent Spending Review, but that no reassurance had yet been provided.

She said: “We have had no confirmation that EU funding will be replaced, and therefore that promise that was made, that there would be no detriment, has not been kept. The Scottish Government has to be upfront, we will always do our level best to mitigate the worst impacts of decisions that are made by the UK Government, but we cannot mitigate, in full, this decision. We cannot just replace EU funding, never mind the impact of not having trade deals, not having clear customs rules, not having full control over immigration policy. 

“We need to be upfront, as a government, and say we cannot mitigate all the impacts. I cannot overspend my budget. I can only spend what I am given and therefore when additional, significant, substantial additional costs come into play, like the impact of Brexit, I cannot replace it.”

The finance secretary added: “I am concerned businesses are not prepared. Not because they haven’t tried but because they don’t know what they are preparing for. In my constituency, along both coastlines, I have fishermen and seafood producers who currently don’t know the rules that they necessarily have to meet in certain areas, and the same goes for other issues. 

“Businesses can only prepare, as far as they are able, with the information provided to them, but they are in the midst of a pandemic, they are struggling, in many cases they are in despair, and to have to contend with an even greater level of uncertainty on top of that is, in many cases, too difficult.”

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