Borders MP hits back at claims Scotland is being short-changed in coronavirus cash handout

Borders MP John Lamont has hit back at claims Scottish businesses are being short-changed by the UK Government as they try to weather the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson in London today. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)UK prime minister Boris Johnson in London today. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
UK prime minister Boris Johnson in London today. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson’s Westminster government is being accused by Scottish National Party South Scotland list MSP Paul Wheelhouse of backtracking on a pledge of £70m earmarked for helping firms this side of the border.

Mr Lamont, MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, gives that allegation short shrift, however, pointing out that the UK Government is spending 150 times that sum on the furlough scheme alone in Scotland.

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Hawick-based Mr Wheelhouse, also minister for energy, connectivity and the islands, said: “On May 2, the UK Government announced a £617m extension to business grants, which it advised would generate £60m of funding consequentials for Scotland under the Barnett formula.

“However, the UK Government informed the Scottish Government at the end of May that this additional funding would not now materialise, which will cause concern for businesses and industry in the Borders.

“Furthermore, last month £35m of consequentials was earmarked to the Scottish Government in respect of charity support direct grant, but this was amended by the treasury to £25m at a later date.

“We have been trying to work with the UK government on responding to this crisis and, therefore, funding commitments from UK ministers have to be taken in good faith.

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“However, the fact that Mr Johnson’s government has simply pulled the rug on £70m of funding they had committed to Scotland completely undermines the whole process.

“The Scottish Government committed to spending that money in the belief that the UK Government would honour its word.

“Tory politicians in the Borders should urgently challenge their colleagues in the UK treasury to ensure that future funding announcements will be honoured and can be taken as being reliable enough to act upon without creating unnecessary financial risks.

“The UK Government, if it wants to be trusted, must act immediately to ensure the £70m they promised is forthcoming as quickly as possible and in its entirety so that the Scottish Government can continue to do the vital job of protecting Borders jobs and businesses.”

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Mr Lamont hit back at that claim of bad faith, though, saying: “It really is astonishing to see Mr Wheelhouse failing to acknowledge the £10.5bn pumped into Scotland by the UK Government in measures to support us during the coronavirus crisis.

“This would be money that would simply not have been available if he and the SNP had their way and Scotland was taken out of the United Kingdom.

“Literally, hundreds of thousands of Scottish jobs have been saved by the furlough scheme.

“Billions of pounds have been given by the UK Government to the Scottish Government to spend on our NHS.

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“Hundreds of millions of pounds have been given to businesses to ensure that they come back stronger after all this is over.”

Rachael Hamilton, MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, added: “The Scottish Government has been given £10bn of Covid-19 support, thanks to the UK Government.

“From the lifeline furlough scheme to more emergency funding for Scotland throughout this pandemic, it has become clear that the Paul Wheelhouse’s vision of an independent Scotland would not have had the financial resources to deal with such a crisis.

“When they have been passed on Barnett consequentials, they fail to pass them onto the areas which need it the most, like the NHS.

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“The SNP have failed to drive economic growth in Scotland which supports better public services.

“Instead of carping ‘Westminster bad’ from the sidelines, the SNP should pull the stops out and further protect against job losses in the Borders.

“Once again, it’s the broad shoulders of the UK which have contributed to our efforts in tackling this virus with extra funding and I, for one, will be working constructively to ensure both governments support the Borders throughout this challenging period.”