Budget 2020: Scottish Block Grant

Scotland – in the House of Commons on 25th March 2020.

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Photo of Robin Millar Robin Millar Conservative, Aberconwy

What discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the effect of Budget 2020 on the Scottish Government’s block grant.

Photo of Alister Jack Alister Jack The Secretary of State for Scotland

I would like to start by endorsing the words of my fellow Minister.

I have regular discussions with the Chancellor, and all my Cabinet colleagues, on how the Government can help Scotland, and the rest of the UK, through these unprecedented challenges. That includes the extra £1.9 billion cash boost for Scotland, on top of that already announced in the Budget, bringing the covid-19 funding to nearly £2.7 billion for Scotland. That is on top of a raft of UK-wide measures, such as mortgage holidays and loan guarantees.

Photo of Robin Millar Robin Millar Conservative, Aberconwy

The four nations approach to the response to covid-19 demonstrates again the strength of the Union. Does the Secretary of State agree that the bonds run so deep and the relationship is so strong that it cannot be summarised as a simple division of responsibilities or a simple transfer of funds?

Photo of Alister Jack Alister Jack The Secretary of State for Scotland

I absolutely agree. I would add that the British economy is the sixth strongest economy in the world, and it is that that is seeing us through these difficult times. We are sending funds to the devolved nations with complete respect for the devolution settlement, and I am pleased that Scotland’s two Governments are working very well together.

I would also like to put on record my support and appreciation for the military assistance of the Ministry of Defence, particularly at the weekend when a plane flew from RAF Brize Norton to Lerwick in Shetland to collect a man who needed to be put on a ventilator and take him to hospital in Aberdeen. It is a wonderful thing that we can all pull together in these difficult times. I am also grateful for the work of all those who are working tirelessly and selflessly to help the emergency services.

Photo of Caroline Ansell Caroline Ansell Conservative, Eastbourne

Quite rightly, our present time is gripped with, and all our energies are focused on, meeting the challenge of the covid-19 virus. Beyond that, however, important and urgent actions need to be taken on climate. For the United Kingdom to realise its world-leading ambition to be carbon neutral by 2050, will my right hon. Friend outline what steps the Government are taking to make sure every industry is playing its part, most notably the Scottish whisky sector?

Photo of Alister Jack Alister Jack The Secretary of State for Scotland

I think everyone in the House agrees about the climate challenge. In particular, on the Scotch whisky sector, we announced in the Budget £10 million of green funding to help distilleries, and coming to Glasgow in November, covid-19 willing, we will have COP26, which will be not only a showcase for Britain’s commitment to climate change, but a wonderful opportunity for the world to come together, when hopefully we have defeated this terrible virus.

Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons)

Can I associate myself with the comments of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and the Secretary of State? The shadow Scottish Secretary—my hon. Friend Tony Lloyd, who is unable to be here today—and I pass on our sincere thanks to all those frontline service workers, our food producers and our shopworkers, who are facing unprecedented pressures to protect and look after the most vulnerable in society. Of course, we thank all those people who are staying at home and following both Scottish and UK Government advice, because staying at home really can save lives.

Coronavirus has shown that local services have been decimated by the Scottish Government, as they passed on to local councils four times the austerity that they have received. Does the Secretary of State agree that any additional budget resourcing should be passed to Scottish local councils to help to bolster local services that are already under pressure?

Photo of Alister Jack Alister Jack The Secretary of State for Scotland

I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman. We have given an extra £2.7 billion in funding for covid-19, over and above the Budget measures announced this year. The Budget measures brought, first, an extra £1.3 billion in the comprehensive spending review, and then another £640 million followed on from that. He is absolutely right, but I have to stress that that matter is for the Scottish Government under the devolution settlement.

Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson SNP Whip

I associate myself with the comments in support of our emergency services, but we also need to recognise that exceptional effort has been put in by our local government workforce. Any additional funding to the Scottish Government is welcome, but in this current climate of unprecedented challenge, does the Secretary of State agree that more steps need to be taken, and will he continue to press Cabinet colleagues for additional support for self-employed workers and to move forward with the argument for a universal basic income?

Photo of Alister Jack Alister Jack The Secretary of State for Scotland

The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. The self-employed and freelancers are still waiting to hear about a package for them. We have been encouraging the Treasury to push forward with that, and I hope that it will come very soon. Members of the Scottish Government have been doing the same—it is an effort across the devolved Administrations—and we need to find a solution. It is a complicated problem, because if someone is a self-employed van driver, they are probably doing very well on deliveries at the moment, but other self-employed people and freelancers are really struggling. We need to recognise that this has to be tailored to those in need.