Finance Secretary Kate Forbes MSP has said next year’s budget feels like “one of the most challenging in devolution.”
Responding to a question asked by Convenor Kenneth Gibson MSP at this week’s Finance Committee, she said next year’s budget is particularly challenging for three reasons.
Ms Forbes mentioned as three reasons:
“First, the costs of mitigating COVID continue, as do the associated volatility and uncertainty. Therefore, we need to manage those when it comes to self-isolation payments or the national health service.
“Secondly, we are trying to remobilise all our public services. Remobilising the health service, social care and the justice system requires financial support, as does economic recovery.
“Over and above that, the final challenge is the funding settlement that we are receiving. Although they were significantly less, there were still COVID consequentials this year.
“I think it highly unlikely that we will see such additional funding from the United Kingdom Government to deal with the additional pressures next year. Indeed, the UK Government is already pulling back significantly, with the removal of the £20-a-week uplift to universal credit and the end of the furlough scheme.
“All in all, the cost and the need will continue but the funding that is available to us will significantly decrease.”
Kenneth Gibson MSP said:
“Unlike the UK Government, the Scottish Government is under a legal obligation to deliver a balanced budget every year. As long as Scotland is not independent, we don’t have the borrowing powers the UK Government uses with abandon.
“In addition, the challenges illustrated by the Finance Secretary will have to be navigated against a backdrop of an increasingly hostile UK Tory Government.
“From impractical timings to failing to pass on consequentials, UK Ministers continue to show contempt for Scotland’s need to have a thriving economy and fairness for all. Scotland deserves better.”
Ms Forbes furthermore confirmed that the SNP Government’s three main priorities are to continue to support families in need who are dealing with the consequences of COVID and some of the inequalities that it has exacerbated; to remobilise our public services and to drive economic recovery.