THE Finance Secretary has responded to claims promoted by Scottish Tories about "missing" money in the Scottish Budget and Covid cash promised by the UK Government.

It was recently announced that the Scottish Government will receive a total of £440 million to help businesses as the Omicron Covid variant spreads rapidly, prompting the need for further restrictions.

The money was announced as a "doubling" of the £220m already promised by the UK Government, which First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described as "spin" due to it being a loss in the cash Scotland was already expecting to receive.

A recent Audit Scotland report identified an "underspend" of £580m in the Scottish Budget figures for 2020/21, which opposition politicians have jumped on as supposed evidence of SNP failings in government.

Kate Forbes, who has served as Finance Secretary since February 2020, has responded to the "ridiculous claims" made by the Tories in recent days. 

In a Twitter thread, Forbes said that the £580m figure from last year's Budget was carried into this year.

She broke down the money, saying that "£373m is resource (ie for day to day spend) which is 0.8% of the Budget" and that "£207m is for capital (ie big infrastructure projects)".

Forbes continued: "On resource, it was well documented last year, that v late consequentials in the last few months of the year would have to be carried forward to ensure we spent money wisely. Vaccinations don’t stop at the end of the financial year; you’ve got to budget for the full initiative.

"On capital, lockdown had a big impact on infrastructure projects so there was slippage across the UK on capital. The projects will be completed but many required funding this financial year rather than last financial year."

The budgets affected by this money were health (£292m) and transport/infrastructure (£321m), equating to a total of £613m in projects requiring funding.

Forbes added: "Contrary to Tories ridiculous claims, the Economy budget was overspent - ie we spent more on business than money we’d been given by UK Gov."

She then asked people to "read, digest and understand" the figures rather than "swallow opposition claims".

She accused the Scottish Tories of attempting to "distract" from the UK Government's slow response to the Omicron crisis and businesses struggling as a result, saying that Westminster has "chosen to ignore business cries for help".

Due to a lack of borrowing powers of devolved governments, Scottish ministers requested extra money from the UK Treasury to ensure business support as firms across the UK face pressure due to an increase in restrictions as a result of the Omicron Covid variant.

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There was an initial confirmation of £220m heading to Scotland which was related to money the Scottish Government already knew about and the FM said was "£48m less than we had been expecting".

An announcement on Sunday following a Cobra meeting with the UK and devolved nations raised this figure to £440m.

Forbes said both announcements are essentially "advance confirmation" of funding, adding: "Last night’s announcement relates to money that UKG intend to spend before the end of the year, which we didn’t know about.

"In a normal year, UKG makes announcements that generate Consequentials throughout the year but they only confirm the final amount for the year in Jan/Feb. So, at some degree of risk, we factor it into the budget, knowing the final figure might be lower than the announcement.

"If the amount in Jan/Feb is lower then we have to make up the shortfall - only weeks before the end of the financial year. If it’s higher then we have to find a way of carrying it forward."

The money announced on Sunday evening relates to funding that the UK Government "thinks it will spend" before the end of the year and is a "rough estimate", according to the Finance Secretary.

She continued: "If they ultimately spend less then we will need to repay the difference - the one consolation being that we can repay next year rather than this year.

"This means that if the UKG makes a big spending announcement in the next few months that generates Consequentials - remember we already have that funding in advance and have probably spent it on business support and the Covid effort. Future Consequentials won’t be new."

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Consequentials are a result of the Barnett Formula which ensures adjustments to money given to devolved nations as a result of UK Government spending decisions on public services.

It means that the UK Government has to announce new spending on services in England before money for an equivalent service in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is given out by the Treasury.

Forbes added: "It is helpful to be as transparent as possible with the public about Budgets so you know what we are dealing with. It is v hard to distinguish between what is ‘new’ spending power and what’s not. We have no means of generating vast new sums of funding overnight without UKG."