SNP may face probe over claims Nats used UK Government COVID cash for ‘election bribes’

Scottish Budget: Kate Forbes outlines 'exceptional' response

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Dr Liam Fox, former International Trade Secretary, is set to write to the Public Accounts Committee and the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee to ask if they will investigate claims made by the Scottish Auditor General that £2.7bn of cash remained unspent. The Scottish Auditor General Stephen Boyle questioned how £9.7billion of “Union” funding from the UK Government had been spent.

Mr Boyle warned in the report the COVID-19 pandemic had created financial management challenges for the SNP-led Scottish Government.

The Auditor-General made clear there had been more than 170 public spending announcements connected to COVID-19 and called on all levels of government to ensure the “pandemic pound” delivered value for money.

As well as this, the report points out that up until the end of 2020, the SNP led administration had only made £7billion worth of spending announcements in response to the pandemic.

In the report, this left a further £2.7billion unallocated and unspent by the SNP.

Mr Boyle added: “It will likely become increasingly hard to identify what is, and what is not, COVID spending, as spending links more widely with economic development issues and with other government goals.

“This means that transparency over spending pressures, progress and risks to delivery must be maintained.”

Dr Fox said: “This is money that was sent by British taxpayers to make sure that all parts of the UK got the same access to Covid support schemes as others.

“There is a growing sense of irritation that the people of Scotland have been short-changed by the SNP, who want to take the money that was earmarked by the British Government for COVID related health issues in Scotland.

“There’s a strong suspicion that these funds, designed for the health of the people of Scotland, are being turned into bribes for the political health of the SNP.

“Given everything we’ve all been through during this pandemic, the idea that money for the health of the Scottish people could be siphoned to fund the SNP’s election bribes is really disturbing.”

Murdo Fraser, Scottish Conservative candidate for Perthshire North, said: “The SNP have wasted more than £4.5 billion of taxpayers’ money during their 14 years in power.

“Every Budget we hear there’s no money left, only for them to find hundreds of millions for a deal with the Greens.

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“Throughout the pandemic they have held funding back from businesses for months on end and dragged their heels on distributing the funding from the UK Government.”

In response, Tom Arthur, the SNP candidate for the Renfrewshire South constituency disputed Dr Fox’s claims and said all money allocated by the UK government had been spent.

The UK Government says it has given more than £14 billion in additional funding for the Scottish Government since the start of the pandemic.

More than 90,000 businesses in Scotland have also been supported from UK Government business loans worth £3.4 billion.

Mr Arthur added: “This is a lame attempt by the Tories to distract from the essential scrutiny of the millions of pounds of COVID-19 contracts that appear to have been handed out to Tory cronies, donors and Matt Hancock’s mate from the local pub.

“All COVID consequentials have been allocated to support people through the pandemic.

“That includes support for health services and our NHS, support for businesses during closure and restart grants, and support for people through isolation payments.

‘“If people give both their votes to the SNP on Thursday, we will continue to invest in jobs, our NHS and supporting people through the pandemic.”

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