No more Scottish money should be given to Ukraine for weapons, say Nicola Sturgeon’s ministers

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Kate Forbes (left) said she had agreed to provide the funding ‘on this occasion’ - Ken Jack /Getty Images Europe
Kate Forbes (left) said she had agreed to provide the funding ‘on this occasion’ - Ken Jack /Getty Images Europe

Nicola Sturgeon’s ministers have said no more of Scotland’s money should be given to Ukraine for weapons after being pressured by the Treasury to hand over £65 million.

Kate Forbes, the Scottish finance secretary, said she had agreed to provide the funding “on this occasion” but made it clear that “this must not be seen as any kind of precedent”.

Her comments were echoed by Rebecca Evans, her Welsh counterpart, who said she had been forced to give £30 million earmarked for “devolved areas like health and education”.

But the Treasury “strongly disagreed”, saying government departments across Whitehall had also been asked to make a contribution through their underspend.

A spokesman denied a precedent for raiding devolved budgets for reserved spending areas had been set, saying: “This is a response to an extraordinary crisis.”

Simon Clarke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, asked the devolved administrations to make a contribution towards a £1 billion fund to provide state of the art equipment.

He said they could either hand over the cash from their budgets or accept a reduction in the Barnett formula funding they receive from their block grants from Westminster. The request was highly unusual because foreign aid and defence spending are reserved to London.

SNP ministers have previously voluntarily spent money in other reserved areas such as international development by sending aid to countries including Ukraine. They have provided £4 million for basic humanitarian assistance in health, water and sanitation, and shelter for those fleeing the country.

The Scottish government said its £65 million would be used to help fund “sophisticated air defence systems and thousands of pieces of vital kit for Ukrainian soldiers”.

Ms Forbes said: “This further funding is to assist Ukrainian armed forces to fight Russian aggression and the unspeakable brutality being perpetrated.

“We have agreed to providing funding on this occasion given the clear need to maximise the international effort to support Ukraine. However, we are clear that this must not be seen as any kind of precedent which leads to devolved budgets being used to help pay for clearly reserved policy areas.”

Ms Evans said it was “right the UK should continue to provide much-needed military support” bur added: “What is not right is using money that should be for investment in devolved areas, like health and education, to fund a non-devolved spending area – military aid and defence.”

A UK Government spokesman said: “Following discussions last week with the Chief Secretary, the finance ministers in the Welsh and Scottish governments agreed to make a contribution as part of the funding being provided to maximise the international effort to support Ukraine, following Russia’s unprovoked, illegal invasion.

“We are pleased that the Scottish government has worked with us and recognise this was a one-off, extraordinary, response to an illegal invasion reflecting the vital importance of continued support for the Ukrainian government.”

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