Kate Forbes: Health funds could be diverted to Covid support schemes

·2-min read
Kate Forbes has said health money may be diverted towards Covid support schemes (Fraser Bremner/Daily Mail/PA) (PA Wire)
Kate Forbes has said health money may be diverted towards Covid support schemes (Fraser Bremner/Daily Mail/PA) (PA Wire)

Scotland’s Finance Secretary has said funding for Covid-19 support will come from health spending generated by Westminster funding pledges and “re-profiling” other commitments.

In a letter to the Finance and Public Administration Committee, Kate Forbes broadly outlined how the £200 million pledged by the Scottish Government which will be partnered with an estimated £175 million from the UK Government will be secured.

The Scottish Government has, throughout the pandemic, said it would pass on all consequentials – money generated by previously unannounced UK Government spending – north of the border.

But the letter hints at a break with the previous path that could also result in cuts to planned initiatives.

Ms Forbes wrote: “In order to fund yesterday’s package, as well as supporting the funding of the business and self-isolation support announced on 14 December, we have taken challenging decisions to support the additional spend, by repurposing health consequentials to directly support public health compliance via business restrictions and self-isolation, re-profiling commitments across a wide range of different spending lines, including some on employability.”

Expected income for the next financial year could also be reduced, in order for funding to be allocated earlier to deal with the new Omicron variant, but no top-up funding from the UK Government would result in further cuts to plans next year.

As part of the agreement from extra funding from the Treasury, devolved administrations have been given an up front payout based on estimates of consequential funding.

If the money given to the nations is less than estimated, it will have to be paid back, while an underestimate means the devolved administrations can keep the windfall.

Ms Forbes said in the letter she was seeking an urgent quadrilateral meeting with the finance ministers of each of the devolved countries and the UK Government.

“Any negative reconciliation would have a serious impact on our public services and hamper our attempts to recover from the pandemic,” she wrote.

“I am, therefore, seeking an urgent finance ministers quadrilateral to help broker a reasonable way through this, and will keep you updated on progress.”

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