To date, we have provided Scottish local authorities with an additional £1.5 billion in direct support through the local government finance settlement, over and above the regular grant payments for Covid recovery. It is important that we deliver a bold and ambitious recovery plan for Scotland.
My priority within Government is to work collectively and collegiately to ensure that that is the case.
I recognise the important role that local authorities have to play in that respect, and I am leading engagement to strengthen our partnership with local government in order to support recovery and to maximise every possible benefit for our citizens.
We have provided a tremendous amount of support to the hospitality sector to enable it to shoulder much of the strain that has come during the period of restrictions. We are now operating in a context in which the hospitality sector is able to trade in a fashion that is fairly close to normal, and we welcome the contribution that the sector can make to the economy.
A number of ministers have been involved in a range of discussions with the hospitality sector. I have been involved in discussions principally with the Glasgow city centre hospitality community, with whom Kaukab Stewart will be familiar from her constituency interests and responsibilities. That community is very much focused on supporting the recovery of the city centre to enable more footfall and, as a consequence, to boost the work of the hospitality sector.
The Government is happy to engage further with the sector on positive steps that we can take to address the concerns and aspirations of the hospitality community.
What steps will the Scottish Government take to ensure that unrestricted Covid recovery funds for councils are spent on appropriate Covid recovery matters and with well-thought-out plans that ensure that funds get to the people and communities that need them and deliver value for money for the United Kingdom taxpayer?
There is an interesting philosophical point in the question that Mr Kerr asked. There is a view—which has been pretty predominant within Parliament—that, when we distribute funds to local authorities, it is for local decision makers to decide how that money is spent.
For the Government to come along and second guess decisions that have been made at local level would, I think, possibly attract—[
.] Mr Kerr is suggesting that that is not second guessing; however, I am not quite sure what would be happening if the Government was scrutinising funding decisions that are taken by local authorities. Indeed, I think, to be frank, that local authorities would rail against such a stance being taken by the Government.
I am happy to explore the points that Mr Kerr raised, if he is suggesting that the Government should intervene in those matters. If that is the Conservatives’ latest position, I will explore that. However, fundamentally, I believe that a partnership with local government is a reliable and effective way to ensure that communities are well supported in the process.