Sturgeon: Treasury funding to fight Covid amounts to £48m less than was expected
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said UK Treasury funding to help tackle Covid is not additional money and is actually less than her government budgeted for.
Yesterday the UK Government said “an additional” £430m was being made available for the devolved administrations, including £220m for Scotland, to help with the vaccine rollout and the wider Covid response.
But Sturgeon said the funding had simply been brought forward and amounted to £48m less than her government had already budgeted for.
The row between the two governments comes amid grave warnings over the spread of Omicron, with the UK recording more than 78,000 cases of Covid yesterday.
Speaking at a press conference alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday evening, England's chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, urged the public to limit social contacts in the run-up to Christmas. However, no new restrictions were put in place in England to help limit the spread of the virus.
The Treasury said “additional funding” was being made available to “provide greater certainty” in the weeks and months ahead. It said the funding would be kept under review in the coming weeks.
The UK Government has already provided the devolved administrations with an extra £12.6 billion through the Barnett formula this year – this includes £1.3 billion confirmed at the recent Autumn Budget, which took their total funding this year to £77.6 billion.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Throughout this pandemic, the United Kingdom has stood together as one family, and we will continue to do so.
“We are working with the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to drive the vaccine rollout to all corners of the United Kingdom and ensure people and businesses all across the country are supported.”
But Sturgeon tweeted: “As feared, this is not ‘additional’ money - it is being brought forward from money we were expecting in January and had already budgeted for. But it’s actually more concerning than than that.
“The net effect of yesterday’s Treasury announcement appears to be that @scotgov is £48m worse off than we thought we were before the announcement. The total we were expecting in January was £268m…we have just been told the actual amount is £220m.
“There is though a more fundamental point. Each of the 4 UK governments is responsible for protecting public health in their own country. But only when UKG takes decisions for England is funding triggered, leaving the rest of us trying to protect health with one hand tied.”
Responding to the first minister's tweets, a Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “The Scottish Government has already had an extra £6.5 billion in this financial year, which Scottish Ministers can spend in any way they choose. They are also receiving a record block grant settlement over the next three years.
“In addition, the Scottish Government now has the financial certainty to spend a further £220 million this year, in advance of funding being confirmed in January - just as they asked for.
“Instead of trying to start a hypothetical row over funding, the First Minister should focus on rolling out the life-saving boosters which are our best defence against the virus.
“We will continue to work with the Scottish Government in the weeks and months ahead.”