Take that, Nicola! Rishi Sunak unveils £150m package to obliterate Indyref2 calls

Nicola Sturgeon outlines Scotland's actions on climate change

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The fund – to be announced in Wednesday’s Budget – will provide thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across Scotland with a welcome boost as the country emerges from the Covid pandemic. It will also highlight the economic might Westminster wields in stark comparison with Holyrood’s meagre coffers – a powerful argument for Unionists.

And with the money coming directly from the UK Government, the SNP leadership will be unable to claim any credit for the welcome handout.

Proponents of a second poll – dubbed IndyRef2 – have long argued that Scotland will be fine as an economically independent nation.

But with North Sea oil revenues falling and concerns about how easily the country could borrow money, questions remain about how viable these claims are.

Further undermining Ms Sturgeon’s economic argument could sweep the rug from underneath the SNP’s argument, stopping a second poll ever taking place.

The Chancellor is to set out his second Budget of the year on Wednesday, with the Tory promising he will focus on “looking to the future and building a stronger economy for the British people”.

He stated: “This fund will help thousands of small businesses in Scotland to make ideas a reality and grow their companies.

“I’m always impressed by the innovation and determination of SMEs and the UK Government will continue to support businesses across the UK.”

Scottish Conservative economy spokeswoman Liz Smith welcomed the proposal.

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She said: “The UK Treasury’s £150million fund for small businesses in Scotland is fantastic news for our economic recovery.

“The UK Government’s furlough scheme helped to save hundreds of thousands of jobs during the pandemic. Now, this fund will help small businesses in Scotland to grow back even stronger.

“Small and medium-sized enterprises are a vital part of our economy, and this UK Government fund will put them at the heart of our recovery.”

The fund, to be delivered through the British Business Bank, will be similar to existing schemes in England and Northern Ireland, which have provided investment and loans for SMEs.

Details on how businesses in Scotland can access the fund will be outlined in due course.

But Mr Sunak said it would show the UK Government was “continuing to support businesses across the UK”.

The news is the latest leak ahead of Mr Sunak’s Budget and comes after he was castigated in the House of Commons this evening.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle demanded that he resign after the series of leaks.

Other leaks include an announcement that the National Living Wage will increase from £8.91 an hour to £9.50, an additional £6billion to help the NHS clear the backlog caused by the pandemic, and a further £2.6billion to help children with special educational needs.

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