Covid-19 Economic Support Package

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:32 pm on 14th October 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of David Linden David Linden Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 1:32 pm, 14th October 2020

I am not sure that the official Opposition are proposing multiple circuit breaks, to be fair to them, but it is not my job to defend the policy of the Labour party. However, what I will defend is the approach of the SNP Scottish Government, who are trying to do this in a balanced way, but we would like to see a lot more financial flexibility to do that. It would help if the UK Government gave us those financial powers. That is what I would say to the hon. Gentleman on that.

I want to come on to that very point, and highlight the work that the Scottish Government have done in supporting business during the second wave of the pandemic. The Scottish Government’s total package for businesses is over £2.3 billion. That is more than the consequentials received from the UK Government. As I mentioned to Anthony Mangnall, the Scottish Government are making an additional £40 million available to support businesses that will be affected by the new measures, and will work with affected sectors in the coming days. I am in no doubt of that. My city of Glasgow is one of those that have been under local lockdown restrictions, and the restaurants and bars in my constituency have had to shut down, but we have recognised when we have asked them to shut down, which is a way of trying to reduce the spread of the virus, that support must be coming.

The Scottish Government will continue to discuss with businesses how the support package we have offered can mitigate some or all of the employer’s contribution to the UK job retention scheme. We have put in place a £230 million “restart the economy” capital stimulus package to help stimulate the economy following the pandemic. We have announced details of a £38 million package of support for innovative early stage businesses. We have committed £2.2 million of funding to the Music Venue Trust, which will provide stability to grassroots music venues over the coming months.

What all this should highlight is that the UK Government’s financial plans have been and continue to be inadequate—excluding the self-employed, freelancers and artists; prematurely ending the furlough scheme; and refusing to make permanent the £20 increase in universal credit. Where we have had the power, the Scottish Government have spent £6.5 billion on tackling covid—above the Barnett consequentials—and they are doing all they can and all within their powers to support businesses across Scotland.

That is the issue at hand. There is only so much that the Scottish Government can do when the vast majority of Scotland’s tax and spending decisions are taken here in Westminster. The fact is that the Government cancelling the UK Budget simply demonstrates that Scotland remains an afterthought for the Tories. I would be more than happy to give way to the Chancellor if he can stand up and give some sort of clarity to Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance about what budget we are supposed to set when the Government have just gone ahead in this way.