UK government promises of extra money being released to support Scottish businesses hit by the rapid increase in the number of Omicron cases have been revealed as a mirage.
Westminster chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday announced a £1 billion support package as businesses have been left reeling from Omicron. It was his response to demands that he act to protect businesses … but only £80m of that £1 billion will come to Scotland.
And even that contains no new money as the £80m has already been announced as part of Barnett Formula calculations which makes sure that spending by Westminster is reflected in money available to Scotland.
The news comes after Scottish hospitality business had urged the Westminster government to provide more emergency cash for Omicron relief. The Chancellor’s new support in England offers one-off grants of up to £6000 per premises for businesses in the affected sectors in England.
Cultural organisations in England can also access a further £30m funding during the winter via the culture recovery fund.
Suggestions of ‘’new’’ cash for Scotland is another example of Westminster spin
But Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will receive around just £150m of funding through the Barnett formula as part of the support announced. This includes around £80m for the Scottish government, £50m for the Welsh government and £25m for the Northern Ireland Executive.
Suggestions of ‘’new’’ cash for Scotland is another example of Westminster spin which just days ago sought to portray £220m as ‘’additional money’’ it had allocated to Scotland. In fact the money was simply brought forward from January, had already been budgeted for and it was £48m LESS than had been expected.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon complained that although devolved governments in the UK are responsible for protecting public health in their own country, money to pay for emergencies such as Omicron is triggered only by Westminster’s decisions for England. ‘’leaving the rest of us trying to protect health with one hand tied’’.
A Treasury spokesman later confirmed that the so-called ‘’additional’’ money was an advance on payments the Scottish government would have received anyway come the new year. The spokesperson insisted the funds were “additional” as it represents “money that they will be able to spend before early next year”.
After Westminster announced more ‘’additional’’ money for Scotland yesterday the First Minister said during her announcement on new Covid restrictions: “Unfortunately, it would appear that this announcement generates no further funding for Scotland and that any consequentials are contained within previous announcements by the Treasury.”
The Scottish government has so far created a fund of £375m that will help support business which will suffer because of the new Omicron restrictions over the next three weeks. The First Minister said: ‘’This is significantly more – proportionately – than the chancellor has announced for the UK as a a whole.”
We need a new targeted furlough scheme that covers at least 80% of workers’ wages
The TUC’s general secretary Frances O’Grady said yesterday that the chancellor’s package had “abandoned” staff, adding: “Workers need help now to pay their bills. But the economic support measures announced today are not conditional on employers keeping workers on and covering their wages. And they do nothing to fix the gaping holes in our sick pay system.
‘’We need a new targeted furlough scheme that covers at least 80% of workers’ wages, and that guarantees that no-one furloughed is paid less than the minimum wage.”