FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon has defended allocating £20 million to holding a second independence referendum in her first public appearance after recovering from Covid-19. 

The FM said that the funding amounts to 0.05% of the Scottish Government budget and is "a really good investment" to "give the people of this country the opportunity to choose a better future".

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross asked Sturgeon why the Scottish Government had allocated the cash, revealed yesterday in the resource spending review as announced by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes. 

READ MORE: Scottish Government allocates £20 million for independence referendum in 2023

Sturgeon said: "It sets out the very heavy price that people across Scotland are paying right now for continued Westminster decision making.

"UK Government decisions have cut our budget this year by more than 5% in real terms, they will constrain growth in our budget over the next four years to 2% while inflation is close to 10%.

"Inflation in the UK of course which thanks to the folly of Brexit is the highest of any G7 country.

"Every year right now the Scottish Government is having to invest more than £700 million mitigating the impact of Westminster policies that Scotland did not vote for- the bedroom tax, the rape clause, the removal of Universal Credit plunging more people into poverty.

"So yes presiding officer, I think that £20m, 0.05%, one half of 1/10 of 1% of the entire Scottish Government budget to give the people of this country the opportunity to choose a better future - yes, is and will be a really good investment."

Ross then claimed that the FM didn't mention the cost of living crisis and instead focused on independence and "dividing our country all over again".

He added: "Nicola Sturgeon's eye is off the ball all over again.

"She's obsessing about independence when people across Scotland overwhelmingly want the focus to be on issues that really matter to them."

READ MORE: Scottish independence support at 50%, says latest poll as £20m budgeted for indyref2

He added that the cash could have been spent on more police officers, nurses or teachers, or support those who need help with their energy bills. 

Ross said: "First Minister, just how much worse does the cost of living crisis have to get for individuals right across Scotland before you will divert money away from an independence referendum?"

The FM hit back that "soaring" inflation is driving the cost of living crisis, thanks in large part to the "folly of Brexit".

The National: Ross claimed the FM didn't mention the cost of living crisis in her opening response...when she didRoss claimed the FM didn't mention the cost of living crisis in her opening response...when she did

She continued: "Douglas was never stands here, as he should and apologises for the fact that this government every year is required to invest more than £700m to mitigate Tory policies that we in Scotland don't vote for."

The FM later added: "So yes, I do think £20m to give Scotland the choice of a better future, a Tory free future is a good investment.

"Although if we look at the opinion polls presiding officer I suspect Scotland said well on the way back to being Tory free anyway."

Ross then referenced an analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies which said the details of the resource spending review will mean “really big cuts for planned spending in public services”.

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He continued: “First Minister, because of your government's failures we're facing severe cuts to budgets for the police, prisons, schools, councils, rural affairs, enterprise, tourism and higher education.

“Scotland is paying the price for Nicola Sturgeon's mistakes. The spending review was damning. Doesn't this all show that we are facing the worst financial outlook from a Scottish government since devolution?”

The First Minister said that in reference to the block grant, it would have been “better if Scotland had responsibility for raising our own revenue” and slammed Ross’s claim that it was the “biggest ever” given to Scotland by Westminster.

The National: The FM fired back at Ross's claims in her first appearance since recovering from Covid-19The FM fired back at Ross's claims in her first appearance since recovering from Covid-19

She added: “Do I wish we had more money to allocate? Yes, I do. 

“But this government's budget is largely determined by decisions taken by the Tories and therefore everything Douglas has just said actually makes the argument ... for this parliament, this country becoming independent.”

The Scottish Tory leader then said “blaming the Westminster bogeyman doesn’t cut it with the public”.

The Scottish Government’s budget is determined by Westminster, the FM reiterated again, added that if Ross doesn’t like that he should “have a word with his bosses at Westminster” or support the Scottish parliament being given more financial powers. 

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It comes as SNP MSP Stuart McMillan asked if the FM agreed that the "windfall tax" touted by the Chancellor last week on oil and gas firms "shows the strength of the Scottish economy" as 90% of the levy will be drawn from profits made by companies operating in the North sea. 

He added: "Meaning not for the first time Scotland's resources are bankrolling the rest of the UK and demonstrating how much stronger position will be and as an independent country?"

The FM said she agreed and that Scotland's "economy, industry and resources are bearing a disproportionate burder to prop up" the UK Government's policies.

She added: "In fact, I may go as far as to say the broad shoulders of Scotland are helping all of the UK at this time."