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Block Grant Funding

Volume 747: debated on Tuesday 19 March 2024

4. What assessment he has made of the potential impact of the Spring Budget 2024 on levels of block grant funding for Scotland. (902057)

11. What assessment he has made of the potential impact of the Spring Budget 2024 on levels of block grant funding for Scotland. (902066)

17. What assessment he has made of the potential impact of the Spring Budget 2024 on levels of block grant funding for Scotland. (902074)

As a result of decisions at the spring Budget, the Scottish Government are receiving around £295 million in additional funding in 2024-25 through the Barnett formula.

According to the Commons Library, the Government have cut the Scottish Government’s capital funding by 16% in real terms from 2022-23 to 2024-25. The Institute for Fiscal Studies forecasts that there will be a further 16% cut by 2029. After 14 years of austerity, inflation and covid, can the Minister tell me why the Chancellor is taking a hammer to our Scottish public services?

The hon. Gentleman is aware that the block grant has been going up in real terms. He will also be aware that the Scottish Government can switch resource to capital—unlimited amounts, if they choose to do so. He will also be aware, I am sure, that the Scottish Government can borrow up to £400 million of capital each year if they so wish.

The Tories have failed to invest in our public services and high-growth industries, dragging the nations of the UK into recession and increased income inequality. The UK Government continue to impose hard cuts to public services. The Commons Library has found that the Scottish block grant will have fallen in real terms in every year since 2020, yet UK Government Ministers continue to deny that fact. Does the Minister understand what “real terms” actually means, and does she see the devastating impact that this is having on public services?

Just to be absolutely clear, the Scottish Government’s total departmental expenditure limit is growing in real terms over this Parliament by over 1% a year on average.

Obviously, the Minister does not understand what “real terms” means after all. Analysis by the Institution of Civil Engineers shows a multiplier effect: every £1 spent in the construction industry brings in an additional £2 of spend. That means that the real-terms cut to the Scottish Government’s block grant for capital by £1.6 billion over two years further deprives our economy of a wider £3 billion. Why do this Government think that it is okay to decimate infrastructure spend in Scotland?

The Scottish Government are well funded to deliver their devolved responsibilities, and receive 25% more funding on average per person than the equivalent UK Government spending in other parts. That translates to £8.5 billion more a year on average.

Consequentials have consequences. The Chancellor announced in his Budget £20 billion of cuts for the public sector, including cuts of 13% in some Departments, and that defies logic. The public sector is crying out for funding, but his choices, if implemented, will lay waste to it. Does the Minister agree with the IFS, which said that it would be genuinely surprising if the Chancellor’s plans could be carried out, or with the Institute for Government, which said that

“these spending plans will be impossible to deliver”,

or with the Resolution Foundation, which said that the plans were fiscal fantasy?

Over the next Parliament, our plans are for spending to go up in real terms—I want to be absolutely clear about that. Equally, spending has gone up in real terms over this Parliament too. The hon. Gentleman will have noticed that at the beginning of my answers, I explained that Scotland is getting £295 million extra this year through Barnett consequentials.

It is no wonder that the Institute for Fiscal Studies says that there is a “conspiracy of silence” from both the Government and the Labour party over the scale of these cuts. As a percentage of UK spending, the Scottish block grant is set to fall to its lowest ever level under devolution, dwarfing its other plans. For Scotland, House of Commons Library figures show capital funding falling by 16% over the next two years. The Chancellor has already confirmed that the Scottish energy sector is the biggest loser from his Budget, and he is doubling down. Why are this Government and this Chancellor trying to be the new hammer of Scots?

The only area in which I agree with the hon. Gentleman is that I would love to know what the Labour party’s spending plans are for the next Parliament—perhaps Labour Members will enlighten us this evening. I will repeat what I said at the beginning about capital: the Scottish Government have unlimited ability to switch from resource spending to capital spending. That is a choice that they have.