Covid Scotland: SNP accused of “fantastic economy” around claim it was forced to cut health budget to support businesses

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In a letter to Holyrood’s finance committee, Kate Forbes said the £ 375million corporate support announced last week was found to be ‘reallocating health consequences’ – money handed over to the Scottish government as a result of increased health care spending by the UK government.

The finance minister said she had also found money by “reshaping commitments across a wide range of different spending lines”, including parts of the budget covering “employability”.

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She said the expected income for 2022/23 has also been reduced so that the money can be spent in that fiscal year.

Economic Secretary Kate Forbes has been accused of “fueling a grievance” with the British government over funding for Covid-19.

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However, opposition parties have said that the explanation of where the additional funds are coming from was “utter nonsense” and that it was “totally inappropriate” to find money for business support in the budget. of health.

The criticism follows a row of more than £ 440million in ‘additional’ UK government funding to the Scottish government to help fight Covid-19.

Nicola Sturgeon has said just £ 175million of the £ 440million is new funding, with the rest part of the expected consequences of the upcoming supplementary budget process.

The PM has consistently criticized the UK government for not going further in its fight against Omicron and has said the current devolution regulations mean decentralized nations are crippled financially until UK ministers act, a point repeated by Welsh Prime Minister Mark Drakeford of Labor.

Commenting on Ms Forbes’ letter, Scottish Conservative MP Liz Smith said it was “utterly ridiculous” for the SNP to claim it was forced to cut the health care budget.

She said: “This is utter nonsense on the part of the SNP. They are playing politics and every moment seeking a grievance against the UK government, instead of focusing on fighting Covid.

“The SNP has an extra £ 440million to spend, but they only committed £ 375million. We know they have fantastic savings, but it’s just ludicrous to suggest they should cut the budget by. health.”

Lewis Morrison, chairman of the British Medical Association Scotland, said it was clear the Scottish government was “struggling” to balance the priorities of the NHS and the economy.

He said: “These are extremely difficult times – with difficult decisions to make – and compromises to be found.

“The NHS is facing – as has been widely recognized – its most difficult winter ever, so of course it will need every penny it can to ensure that care can be delivered as efficiently as possible.

“We need them to continue doing all they can to meet this challenge and ensure the NHS has the funding it needs both for the winter and beyond – to meet growing demand and deal with years of underfunding. “

Jackie Baillie, spokesperson and deputy leader of the Scottish Labor Party for health, echoed criticism from the Scottish government.

She said: “Despite protests, time and time again, this SNP government has found funds at the back of the couch after new restrictions were announced.

“While supporting the economy is important, it is grossly inappropriate to take money out of the health care budget at a time when the NHS is under immense pressure. This will have negative consequences for health and social services. “

A UK government source said scottish the £ 440million funding had given Scottish ministers certainty over Covid spending “as Scottish ministers wanted”.

The source said: ‘The Scottish Government receives a global grant of £ 41bn per year, an increase of £ 4.6bn, making it the largest settlement, in real terms, in the history of decentralization. There has also been an additional £ 14.5 billion to fight Covid via the Barnett Formula.

“The UK government has supported employment throughout the pandemic and has a leading vaccination program in place. We are determined to continue working with the Scottish Government to overcome the coronavirus threat and the situation is constantly being reviewed. “

In response, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘Tough decisions were needed to fund our improved £ 375million business support program, as well as the announced business and self-isolation support. December 14.

“Some health consequences have been reallocated to directly fund public health compliance through trade restrictions and self-isolation.

“These are crucial to our public health response and strongly linked to ensuring that our NHS and healthcare services are not overwhelmed by the new variant.

“We have also redefined commitments across a wide range of different expense lines and are reducing our expected revenue in 2022/23 so that they can be rolled out in 2021/22.

“Full details of the reallocations will be presented in the Spring Budget Review. “

When asked why the Scottish government has not taken money from other portfolios such as the constitution budget, he said the majority of the constitution, external affairs and culture budget was intended to support the cultural and events sector which had been affected by Covid-19 and needed more Support.

The defense comes as UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the NHS risked being “overwhelmed” by the upsurge in Omicron cases.

Mr Javid said officials were monitoring the data ‘hour by hour’ after new figures showed UK Covid infection rates were reaching record highs with around 1.4 million people infected with the virus.

The warning came as the British Health Safety Agency (UKHSA) estimated that a person with Omicron was between 31 and 45% less likely to be the victim of an accident and emergency, and 50 70% less likely to be admitted to hospital than an individual with the Delta variant.

The results are broadly in line with studies released Wednesday by Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh.

Mr Javid said that while the UKHSA’s findings were “promising”, Omicron cases continued to rise at an “extraordinary rate”.

“Hospital admissions are increasing and we cannot risk the NHS being overwhelmed,” he said in a statement.

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