Sturgeon tells MSPs Hunt’s £320m ‘does not go nearly far enough’ – NewsEverything Scotland

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Sturgeon tells MSPs Hunt’s £320m ‘does not go nearly far enough’ – NewsEverything Scotland
Sturgeon tells MSPs Hunt’s £320m ‘does not go nearly far enough’ – NewsEverything Scotland

The First Minister told MSPs that the Chancellor could “have done far more to ease the burden that is affecting so many.” 


One of the biggest announcements in Wednesday’s Spring Budget was the expansion of free childcare in England. 

While both Scotland and England have 30 hours per week for three and four-year-olds, Mr Hunt yesterday extends the English policy to children from the age of nine months, to be rolled out in stages between now and September 2025.  

The bulk of the £320m in Barnett Consequentials over financial years 2023-24 and 2024-25  will likely come from this, though it’s not yet entirely clear. 

Asked for her thoughts on the Spring Budget during First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon said: “While any limited additional money for the Scottish Government budget is welcome, it does not go nearly far enough.

“We have repeatedly called on the UK Government to deploy its full range of powers to support people, the public sector and businesses through the cost-of-living crisis.

“The Chancellor’s Budget yesterday was, disappointingly, another missed opportunity to do that.

“The decisions announced yesterday mean that this Government will continue to have a constrained ability to support vital services and provide fair pay rises.

“This Government is doing everything it can within its limited powers to ensure people receive the help needed, but the UK Government could have done far more to ease the burden affecting so many.”

READ MORE: Hunt insists he’s helping Scotch whisky despite budget backlash

Scottish Tory MSP Meghan Gallacher asked Ms Sturgeon if she would match the Chancellor’s extension of free childcare. 

The First Minister said her Government could not match it because the Scottish childcare provision would have to be “reduced” to do so.

The Scottish Government currently offers up to 1,140 hours of funded early learning and childcare per year – equating to around 30 hours per week in term time – for three and four-year-olds, and some eligible two-year-olds.

One of the key differences between the English and Scottish systems is over-eligibility.

In Scotland, all parents are eligible for this whether they work or not, while in England, only parents in full-time work receive the full 30 hours, and if not, they get 15 hours free.  

Ms Sturgeon said: “We are currently way ahead of anything that the UK Government provides, because of the doubling under this Government of early years education and childcare provision for three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds. 

“We want to go further for younger children—we were clear about that at the last election. However, we want to ensure that the important universal approach principle in our provision is respected, too.”

“What the chancellor announced yesterday is very limited. To give an indication of how limited the provision is, the consequentials in the forthcoming financial year from that commitment to the Scottish Government amount to just around £20 million.

“That figure tells its own story about how limited what the UK Government is proposing here is, despite the spin. Our ambition remains very much higher.”

READ MORE: Thinktank questions Hunt’s billion pound pension giveaway

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser pointed to a package of support announced by the Chancellor to help swimming pools south of the border and asked if the Barnett consequentials could be used for a similar scheme here. 

Answering, Ms Sturgeon referenced recent reports that Rishi Sunak’s new heated swimming pool uses so much energy that the local electricity network had to be upgraded.

“I am not sure whether Murdo Fraser has ever been invited to use the Prime Minister’s personal swimming pool, but if he has not, I am sure that the invitation will be forthcoming.”

She added: “Local sport and leisure facilities, including swimming pools, are vital in supporting both the physical and mental health of people across the country. Of course, energy costs have been a very significant issue facing many sports facilities, in particular swimming pools, in recent times. 

“We will continue to support local councils with the best possible financial settlements. With regard to the use of consequentials, that will be a matter for the incoming first minister and his or her Cabinet.”


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