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Brexit (Councils)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 26th September 2019.

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Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

5. To ask the First Minister how the Scottish Government is helping councils to prepare for Brexit. (S5F-03573)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government has met the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities’s request to allocate £50,000 to each council to co-ordinate European Union exit preparedness, which is a total of £1.6 million. Local authorities are able to submit further funding requests for EU exit costs through the submission of a business case; that process has been put in place for all public sector bodies and local government is not being treated differently in that respect. We will continue to work closely with local government and COSLA to prioritise and target interventions so that, as far as possible, we can mitigate the effects on our communities of leaving the EU.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

The Scottish Government has so far received £93 million in Barnett consequentials for Brexit preparations. About £8 million of that should have gone to councils, but, as the First Minister said, they have received only £1.6 million so far and are being told by Derek Mackay to submit business cases for the rest of the cash. In England, councils have been given £83 million to date without having to prove anything. With just 35 days to go until Brexit— [



The Presiding Officer:

Let us hear the question.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

Is it not time that councils in Scotland were just given the money that they need instead of being made to jump through bureaucratic hoops?

The First Minister:

No wonder Jackson Carlaw is staring at his phone right now.

We should not be having to spend a single penny on Brexit preparations. I remind Graham Simpson that Scotland did not vote for Brexit. The member spoke about the £98.7 million of consequentials that we have received; so far we have committed £92 million of that, but the cost of Brexit will far exceed any consequentials that we have received, or no doubt will be likely to receive, from the United Kingdom Government. For example, we are having to cover up to £17 million for Police Scotland this year as an unavoidable cost of a no-deal Brexit. It is shameful that a Conservative member of this Parliament gets up here and asks about the money that we are spending to prepare for the impact of a policy that his party is imposing on this country against our will. Shame on him.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

Given the uncertainty that has been caused by Brexit, which the First Minister has just acknowledged, and the evidence that we received yesterday at the Local Government and Communities Committee from COSLA, will the First Minister confirm that the Government will honour its budget agreement and commit to a three-year budget settlement for local government?

The First Minister:

We will continue to work with COSLA to give local government as much certainty on budgets as we can in the years ahead. Obviously, we would be better able to do that if we knew what the Scottish Government budget looked like—if all the decisions to be made by Westminster had been taken. We do not even yet know when there will be a Westminster budget this year.

Sarah Boyack raises an important question, but she has to reflect on the fact that the uncertainty that is swirling around the UK Government and the entire country has implications for the decision-making process here in Scotland. However, we will continue to work with councils and other public bodies—and businesses—to provide as much certainty as we possibly can. I think that the certainty that most people in Scotland want is for Brexit not to happen at all.