PMQs: Johnson slams Blackford on SNP’s budget spending
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In his latest report on the impact of coronavirus, Stephen Boyle said the Scottish Government had received an extra £9.7billion to its budget of more than £40billion during the 2020/21 financial year. He said the transparency around public spending from the Scottish Government has become more difficult as governments work to rebuild the economy.
Mr Boyle warned in the report that the COVID-19 pandemic had created financial management challenges for the SNP led Scottish Government.
The Auditor General made clear there had been more than 170 public spending announcements connected to COVID-19 and called on all levels of government to ensure the “pandemic pound” delivered value for money.
As well as this, the report points out that up until the end of 2020, the SNP led administration had only made £7billion worth of spending announcements in response to the pandemic.
This leaves a further £2.7billion unallocated and not spent by the SNP administration, the Auditor General said.
Mr Boyle said: “It will likely become increasingly hard to identify what is, and what isn’t, Covid spending, as spending links more widely with economic development issues, and other government goals.
“This means that transparency over spending pressures, progress and risks to delivery must be maintained.
“Scottish Government responses need to work alongside UK Government and local government measures.
“The frequency of spending decisions by the UK and Scottish governments and individual public bodies, such as NHS boards and local authorities, has made tracking how interventions are working together more complex.
“In such a fast-moving environment, it is more difficult to demonstrate how each measure has been chosen and how overall spending is being managed.”
Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said: “I share the Auditor General’s concerns about the need for transparency and scrutiny around the so-called pandemic pound.
“He rightly identifies that SNP ministers have received an extra £9.7billion from the UK Government to help Scotland deal with the pandemic and people are entitled to know exactly how that is being spent.
“He also says the SNP’s blizzard of 170 separate Covid spending announcements make the task of following the money complex and difficult.
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“The SNP finance secretary needs to heed the Auditor General’s calls for transparency and tell people exactly how public money is being spent to aid Scotland’s pandemic recovery.”
It comes as Scotland’s economy shrank in December as coronavirus restrictions took hold.
Provisional statistics released by the Scottish Government on Wednesday show a 0.3 percent fall in gross domestic product (GDP), when compared to November.
GDP also now sits at 7.2 percent below last February, the last period not impacted by some level of coronavirus restrictions.
Ian Murray MP, Shadow Scottish Secretary, said: “The SNP Government has received nearly £10billion as part of the UK, but billions have not been allocated.
“Support for businesses and individuals in Scotland has been too slow to reach those in need.
“It would be unforgivable if this money was being held back as part of electioneering – it should be spent now to help our economy and public services recover.”
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, said: “We are also taking direct action to support economic recovery in Scotland, investing billions in our Plan for Jobs, initiatives such as City and Region Growth Deals and in the supply of vaccines which are important in lifting restrictions and reopening the economy.”
Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union stressed the “UK’s broad shoulders have helped every part of the country through this crisis.”
She added: “Being part of the UK has ensured we can invest huge sums in our health and social care services and support businesses at such a difficult time.
“Had Scotland been a separate country during this pandemic it would have paid a huge premium on its borrowing – and would ultimately be forced to pass that on through deeper spending cuts and higher tax rises.
“This demonstrates why we are stronger together in the UK and can work together to rebuild every part of the country, leaving no community behind.”
In response, Nicola Sturgeon told Express.co.uk today that she was confident that the recent Scottish Budget had complete transparency on how money was being used.
When asked about the report during today’s COVID-19 briefing, the First Minister told Express.co.uk: “One of the frustrations we’ve had is the way in which money has been allocated without any certainty upfront on what it is expected to cover, which has meant that we’ve had to make sure we don’t overspend in some areas and then find that we don’t have money to cover over things.”
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