Rishi Sunak says free ports will deliver ‘growth and prosperity'
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Rishi Sunak said he plans to “rebuild the economy of Scotland and the whole of the UK” as the country seeks to “recover from the devastating impact of coronavirus”. He told how the UK Government had delivered some £13.3 billion of cash to the Scottish Government since the pandemic began a year ago.
And he said his Budget, announced earlier this month, would help “support the United Kingdom’s recovery”.
Mr Sunak, speaking at the Scottish Conservative conference, insisted that was a “recovery which Scotland will play an important part in”.
He told how the UK Government was “investing £34 million into the North East economy, to support the transition to green technology and make Aberdeen the world leader in subsea engineering”.
The Chancellor also highlighted Westminster’s freezing of alcohol duties, saying this was “benefitting your national drink, Scotch whisky, and the 11,000 jobs it supports”.
Mr Sunak said the Conservative government was accelerating growth deals in Ayrshire, Argyll and Bute and Falkirk, and was freezing fuel duty for the 11th year in a row, “saving the average Scottish driver £1,600”.
The Chancellor pledged: “This is just the start of my plan to rebuild the economy of Scotland and the whole of the United Kingdom.
“We recover from coronavirus and we will level up and spread opportunity to every part of our country.”
But Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said the Chancellor’s commitments and budget were a “return to austerity” and stressed more funding and bowering powers needed.
In a letter to Mr Sunak, Ms Forbes urged the UK Government to support Scotland as lockdown measures are set to be eased next week.
The Scottish Government minister said the levelling-up fund had left a £400 million hole in the Scottish Government’s coffers after the UK Government decided the fund should be administered across the entirety of the UK by Westminster, instead of by the SNP led administration.
Ms Forbes added: “It is clear the Chancellor has not matched Scotland’s ambition for economic recovery and supporting households.
“The UK Government’s support for businesses and households is significantly less generous than what we have committed to here in Scotland.”
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A Scottish Government spokesperson added Mr Sunak’s announcement “simply represents the Scottish Budget’s share of UK Government spending, which is part-financed by Scottish taxpayers.”
They added: “Scotland would not have to rely on, or wait for, funding from the Treasury to support our response to the pandemic if the UK Government agreed to the Scottish Parliament’s request for additional, limited borrowing powers and the ability to transfer money from capital budgets to day-to-day spending.”
But Scottish Secretary Alister Jack claimed that some UK Government funding had been left to “moulder in Bute House” – the residence of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Speaking at the Scottish Conservative Conference, Mr Jack said: “Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will see at least £800 million for high street regeneration, local transport, cultural and heritage projects – things that will make a genuine difference to the quality of life in communities across the land, and create good jobs too.”
The Scottish Tory MP continued: “The Levelling Up Fund will allow us to directly invest in capital projects, working with local authorities and others who know best what their communities really need.
“Together, we intend to ensure this money is spent for the betterment of people the length and breadth of Scotland, and not left to moulder in the coffers of Bute House.”
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