FINANCE Secretary Derek Mackay has called on the UK Chancellor to urgently provide clarity on the timing of the UK Budget and end uncertainty for Scotland.

The Scottish Government’s Budget should have been held on December 4, but was cancelled when Brexit was postponed.

The UK Budget, which was due on December 12, was also cancelled ahead of the General Election.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said this had been done in a “fit of pique” after Boris Johnson lost a key Commons vote and it had left the Scottish Government without information needed to set its own Budget.

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It is not likely to happen until after the Brexit deadline of January 31 and there is speculation it may not take place until March.

This could impact on the setting of council tax by local authorities, for example, as they usually draw up spending plans in February based on the Scottish Budget.

The Scottish Government is now preparing emergency measures to ensure public services and jobs continue to be funded in Scotland.

Mackay has highlighted the difficulties caused by the delay in a letter to Chancellor Sajid Javid, urging him to discuss the issue.

The National: Chancellor Sajid Javid

It states: “As you know, the Scottish Government faces significant uncertainty as it plans for the Scottish Budget 2020-21. As an initial step, it would be very helpful for you to confirm the timing of the UK Budget and I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this by phone ahead of Christmas.

“The Scottish Government remains without clarity on the funding available for public services because of the impact on the operation of the fiscal framework. UK Government departments do not face the same issues, having gained certainty on their budgets for the year ahead through September’s Spending Round.

“It is therefore vital not only to have early clarity about timing but also that the UK Budget is brought forward as quickly as possible.

“It is essential that the Scottish and UK governments co-operate closely in order to enable a Scottish Budget to be in place by the beginning of the next fiscal year.”

Mackay also called on the UK Government to fulfil spending promises which were made in the run-up to the election.

He said: “It is essential that the UK Government delivers on the Conservative party’s public commitments made during the General Election campaign, resulting in additional Barnett consequentials for Scotland and an uplift in next year’s Scottish Budget of at least £466 million compared to the position at the UK Spending Round. In the current uncertainty, we have no option but to use these commitments as the basis of our own Budget planning.”

Mackay expressed concern in the letter that if the Scottish Budget was published before the UK Budget, the use of provisional data could lead to less funding being available for public services than “should be the case”.

He added: “Such an eventuality would be a result of factors outwith the Scottish Government’s control.

“Where such a situation to emerge, I would welcome a flexible approach to the operation of the fiscal framework, in recognition of the unique circumstances that we are working with this year.”

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Last week Sturgeon accused Johnson’s Government of “playing politics” with the Budget and said the “unnecessary delay” has knock-on effects, including for councils, health boards and the third sector.

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She said: “We will continue to engage with the Parliament, local government, trade unions and others in the process, but we need the UK Government to announce its Budget date and publish its budget as soon as possible.”

In response, the Treasury said it was working with the Scottish Government to provide the information they need to prepare their Budget. A spokesman added: “Nothing stops the Scottish Parliament from passing a Budget before the UK Budget.”

The Office for Budget Responsibility last week warned Britain will go for almost a year without proper economic forecasts because of the cancelled UK Budget and chaotic political situation.

Chairman Robert Chote said: “The Brexit negotiations and parliamentary timetable have played understandable but regrettable havoc with the forecast and policy scrutiny process … This needs to change.”