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Highland MSP and finance secretary lashes out after the Treasury cancels this year's autumn budget

By Scott Maclennan

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Finance secretary Kate Forbes.
Finance secretary Kate Forbes.

Scotland’s finance secretary has described the decision not to hold an autumn budget this year as “breath-taking in its disregard” for the devolved administrations.

Kate Forbes, who is also a Highland MSP, hit out at the move by Chancellor Rishi Sunak saying it would impede budget setting for NHS Scotland as well as local government.

It marks the second year in a row that the Treasury opted to cancel the autumn budget – last year then Chancellor Sajid Javid cited Brexit uncertainty for doing away with the autumn statement – which created a number of problems for the Scottish Government.

Without a clear understanding of the UK government investment Miss Forbes cannot decide how much to allocate to the various departments.

Two organisations that will be waiting on any spending announcement with baited breath are Highland Council and NHS Highland as both have struggled financially with the impact of Covid.

Miss Forbes lashed out at the move in a post online: “This decision is breath-taking in its disregard for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. If there is no UK budget, how are devolved Governments meant to set our own budgets?

“Local Government, the NHS, taxpayers all depend on confirmation of spending and tax plans.

“This is a government that denies the Scottish Government the most basic of financial flexibilities, despite repeated requests, and now will scrap the main and only source of our funding figures to allow us to set next year's budget.

“The irony of the Tories scrapping the budget (which provides vital certainty for public services and taxpayers) by arguing 'now is not the right time to outline long-term plans' whilst proceeding to implement the long-term disaster that is Brexit.”

A spokesman for HM Treasury argued that previously the Scottish Government was largely able to agree its budget before the official announcement of UK tax and spending plans.

He said: “Nothing stops the Scottish Parliament from passing their budget before the UK Budget. The Scottish Government’s last budget was set on February 6, 2020 ahead of our Budget on March 11, 2020.

"We will continue to work with the Scottish Government as part of an agreed process to provide the information they need to prepare their budget.”

“We have provided the Scottish Government with an additional £6.5 billion since March to cope with the pressures of the pandemic. We have also supported more than 930,000 jobs in Scotland and more than 65,000 businesses in Scotland have benefited from UK Government loan schemes.”

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