KATE Forbes has accused Rishi Sunak of denying Scotland “the appropriate financial powers” needed to cope with the pandemic.

Responding to yesterday’s last-minute Winter Economy Plan, the Scottish Government’s Finance Secretary said the Chancellor had deprived her of the “clarity” she needed to tailor support “to meet Scotland’s needs”.

But Scottish Secretary Alister Jack rejected that, saying the plan showed “clearly how Scotland benefits from being part of a strong United Kingdom”.

Forbes welcomed elements of Sunak’s plan on jobs but said that it did not go far enough.

She said: “Our analysis suggested 61,000 jobs would be saved if the furlough scheme was extended, and it appears that from the detail this scheme will not provide the support that was hoped for. We also need more clarity on what this will mean for those businesses and people who are not working at present as over 217,000 people are still on furlough in Scotland.

“It is disappointing that these changes don’t take into account our current reality of local lockdowns, with no apparent flexibility to support local or national restrictions, or those sectors, like the events sector, that have not yet been able to re-open. News of the VAT deferral and extension to the VAT cut for hospitality and tourism are positive steps. However these are two of the sectors hit hardest by this pandemic, and today’s announcement doesn’t give enough support for those sectors.”

Sunak’s brief statement effectively replaced the Autumn Budget.

Forbes warned that the decision to scrap the annual spending announcement had “removed any clarity about how much funding” the Scottish Government will receive in its settlement from the Treasury.

She said: “It’s also important to highlight that this is not a budget – devolved governments need clarity on funding so we can tailor our support to meet Scotland’s needs. As I have stressed before, we have responded to Covid-19 without the fiscal levers we require.

“Not only is the UK Government denying us the appropriate financial powers needed to fully respond to the pandemic, it has also removed any clarity about how much funding we will receive by deciding to scrap this autumn’s UK Budget.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard described the package as “woefully inadequate”.

He said: “The Chancellor has had to be dragged kicking and screaming into keeping afloat the life raft of financial support for furloughed employees. Yet it is clear that this last-gasp announcement is woefully inadequate for the scale of the challenge that Scotland’s Covid-raged economy is facing.

“Transmission of the virus is rising sharply once again and Scotland has the highest unemployment rate of the UK’s four nations. That’s why I am calling for a Jobs Retention Scheme specifically targeted at Scotland.”

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said Sunak’s support for Scotland throughout the pandemic had “been immense”.

“This is the decisive action we needed from the UK Government to keep backing businesses and supporting jobs,” he said. “It’s the right way forward in this next phase of the pandemic.”

Meanwhile, Jack said the package was “great news for people and businesses in Scotland”. He added: “It will help keep people in jobs, extend crucial support to businesses and give them the certainty they need.

“It will give businesses and self-employed people the support they need to get through this difficult situation. It comes on top of an extensive package of UK Government support throughout the pandemic and is very welcome.

“The UK Government has put in place unprecedented measures to support all parts of the country during this pandemic.

“It shows clearly how Scotland benefits from being part of a strong United Kingdom.”