The Scottish Government must not “dither” in spending a “windfall” from the Chancellor’s £30 billion economic recovery package, the leader of the Scottish Tories has said.
Writing in the Scottish Daily Mail, Jackson Carlaw welcomed Rishi Sunak’s “clear and unambiguous plan to save and create jobs” following the coronavirus pandemic.
In devolved areas, Mr Carlaw urged the Scottish Government to spend additional money coming its way quickly and efficiently.
It comes amid a row over the figure which will be made available to Holyrood ministers via Barnett consequentials.
In response to the Chancellor’s announcement, Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said just £21 million will come to the devolved administration north of the border, while Mr Carlaw and the UK Government claim the figure is £800 million.
Ms Forbes said on Thursday the figure cited by the UK Government includes funding announcements made in previous weeks.
Mr Carlaw said: “What is now critical is that rather than sit on this cash and dither, the Scottish Government spends that windfall wisely and promptly with the same purpose in mind that Mr Sunak set out yesterday – to protect jobs, especially for the youngest and poorest in our society.
“The pandemic of the spring cannot be followed by a jobs cull this autumn. We need practical action now to help.”
But he claimed the chances of the cash being spent quickly “do not look promising”, adding: “Under the SNP, devolution has been less about finding Scottish solutions than stoking nationalist grievances.”
He accused the Scottish Government of using the Covid-19 pandemic to cause division between Scotland and England.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly said the response to the pandemic should not be political and refused at her daily press briefings to answer questions about Scottish independence or next year’s Holyrood election.
On Tuesday, Ms Forbes joined with finance ministers in all three of the devolved nations to push for greater fiscal flexibility, including an increase in borrowing powers and the ability to shift cash from the capital budget over to the day-to-day revenue budget.
The request was denied by the Treasury, with Mr Sunak not referencing it in his speech in the House of Commons.
Mr Carlaw added: “The package of support revealed yesterday is £300 million more than the extra borrowing powers she (Forbes) has demanded over recent weeks. Yet rather than welcome it, Ms Forbes complained about his ‘disappointing’ plan.
“The tragedy is that – with the powers it has – the Scottish Government could be doing so much more.”
Writing in the Daily Record, Ms Forbes described the announcement as “completely underwhelming”.
She added: “At no more than £30 billion, not all of which is new money, it is less than half the amount we consider necessary to protect jobs and livelihoods and set Scotland and the rest of the UK on the road to a recovery from Covid-19.
“Many of the initiatives are short-lived and fail to provide the certainty businesses require to plan for the future.”
Ms Forbes did welcome the six-month job guarantee scheme for young people, along with the reduction of VAT to 5% for tourism and hospitality firms – although she did say the decision to end the tax cut in January would not help during the winter season.
However, the Finance Secretary concluded: “We were hoping for a bold, long-term vision but have been handed a short-term fix.”