Chancellor Rishi Sunak this week unveiled the Government’s Spending Review. There is no doubt we are in really tough economic circumstances, with an 11% reduction in the economy- the worst in 300 years, Government borrowing at £400bn and with the cost of the pandemic now sitting at £550bn, tough choices needed to be made. And they were. And many people will be unhappy with them. I get that.
I myself am very uncomfortable with our cutting our commitment to international overseas aid from 0.7% to 0.5% - which still leaves us as one of the biggest contributors to the developed world in the world, but still sits uncomfortably with me as our commitment is something I am incredibly proud of. And I know many are displeased by the idea of pay freezes for the public sector (but only on those earning above £24,000 and not for any NHS staff), but, as I said, tough action needs to be taken.
Despite all that the Chancellor was able to announce some very positive stuff for Scotland including the investment in a global underwater hub which, will eventually comprise of physical presences in the existing underwater engineering cluster, here in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, the Global home of subsea engineering. As well as that, the Chancellor announced for Scotland -
- £11m acceleration of City and Growth Deal funding over each year remaining in four Scotland Deals.
- A Gigabit and Shared Rural Network programmes for better mobile coverage.
- Investment in new green industries supporting green growth clusters, offshore wind capacity, port infrastructure, Carbon Capture and Storage and low carbon hydrogen.
- Institutions and companies in Scotland will also be able to access a £14.6bn UK-wide research and development fund.
- Investment from EU Structural Funds is increasing in each of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in 21-22 compared to this financial year.
- Additional UK funding to help local areas prepare over 2021-22 for the introduction of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
- £570m to support farmers, land managers and the rural economy, and £14m to support fisheries in Scotland.
- Establishing at least one Freeport in Scotland, with location to be jointly decided by the UK Government and the devolved administrations.
- £29.1m for Festival UK with projects expected across Scotland.
- At this Spending Review Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will benefit from UK-wide coronavirus support in health, including £15bn for Test and Trace with Barnett funding provided for England-only elements of the programme.
There was also a £2bn uplift in direct funding from the UK Government to the Scottish Government for them to spend how they choose – as devolution allows.
Despite everything going on, I believe that this was, overwhelmingly, a positive Spending Review for Scotland.