THE UK Government has performed a crucial U-turn and pledged to make funding available to the devolved nations to fight the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

However, despite claims from the Tories that this represents "further, additional, funding for the Scottish Government", the Treasury has admitted that the money is cash Holyrood would have gotten anyway come the new year. 

The news comes just two weeks after the Tory government rejected pleas from the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales to confirm that financial support schemes would be funded by the Treasury if Omicron meant “more interventionist measures are required”.

At the time, the devolved nations said it would “be better to consider this now, in advance of a potential escalation in the seriousness of the situation, to support effective planning”.

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Despite the joint calls from the Welsh and Scottish governments, the Tories rejected the idea out of hand after just a few hours.

However, just moments before Nicola Sturgeon was due to address Parliament about guidance to be issued to Scots over the Christmas period, the Treasury announced a U-turn.

In a press release published on the UK Government’s website, the Treasury said “additional funding from the UK Reserve will be made available to the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to progress their vaccine rollout and wider health response”.

It added that these funds would “provide greater certainty and allow them to plan as they tackle Covid-19 during the crucial weeks ahead”.

“HM Treasury will set this amount of additional funding in the coming days and will keep it under review in the following weeks.”

The National: LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: Scotland Secretary Alister Jack leaves 10 Downing Street following the first cabinet meeting with new Prime minister Boris Johnson on July 25, 2019 in London, England. Britain's New Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, appointed

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack (above) praised his own Government for what he described as "unprecedented support to people in all parts of the UK".

"With the Omicron variant, we now need to do everything possible to get booster jabs into arms as quickly as possible. The UK Government has made clear today that there will be further, additional, funding for the Scottish Government to support this", he added.

Douglas Ross also welcomed the "vital extra support", claiming it showed the strength of the Union.

However, the Tories' narrative was contradicted by the First Minister, who said that "as far as we can tell" the offered additional funding is no such thing.

Taking to Twitter after speaking in Holyrood, Nicola Sturgeon wrote: "This news came while I was in the chamber. We are still awaiting all the the detail but as far as we can tell so far, this funding is not ‘additional’. I hope I’m wrong."

The Treasury has now confirmed to The National that this funding is not "additional" in the true sense of the word, but is an advance on payments the Scottish Government would have received anyway come the new year. 

A spokesperson insisted the funds were "additional" as it represents "money that they will be able to spend before early next year".

It is the second U-turn in the space of a few days - after Michael Gove chaired a Cobra meeting with the devolved leaders on Friday despite the UK Government having previously rapidly rejected requests for such a meeting.

It comes as Nicola Sturgeon criticised the Tory government in her Covid statement for failing to provide the funding needed to allow the Scottish Government to fight Omicron as they would like.

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Sturgeon told MSPs that Scotland’s response to the pandemic was being “curtailed” by the UK Government’s control over the purse strings.

She said that there would have been “further steps” to fight the spread of Omicron if the Scottish Government had the funding to do so, “but we don’t”.

Sturgeon added: “That is not acceptable in current circumstances and, with the Welsh and Northern Irish governments, we are pressing for a fairer approach that takes account of our devolved responsibilities for protecting public health.”