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Prime Minister dodges calls to give Holyrood new borrowing powers to deal with fiscal fallout of Covid-19

Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Boris Johnson has sidestepped calls to give Holyrood the power to borrow cash in the same way the UK Government can.

Ministers were due to review the current fiscal framework next year but in a report published on Monday Scotland’s Advisory Group on Economic Recovery called for this timetable to be “accelerated” to allow the Scottish Government to borrow more.

Benny Higgins.

The group, chaired by former Tesco Bank boss Benny Higgins, called on London to give Edinburgh “greater autonomy to use targeted fiscal measures to stimulate demand”.

Raising the issue at prime minister’s questions, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said failing to devolve these powers would “put Scotland’s economic recovery at risk”.

Mr Johnson dodged the questions, telling MPs: “Scotland has so far received as part of our UK campaign against coronavirus £3.8bn in Barnett consequentials, a fact that I’m sure is seldom off his lips in his discussion with SNP colleagues.

“We will continue to invest massively in Scotland because Scotland, like the whole of the UK, benefits from being part of the oldest and most successful political partnership in the world.”

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford.

Speaking after PMQs, Mr Blackford said: “The UK faces the worst health and economic emergency in decades – and it requires an unprecedented response.

“It is absolutely vital that the Scottish Parliament has the financial powers and funds necessary to fuel a strong recovery and protect Scotland’s budget.

“Scotland can make different choices for an investment-led recovery but we can only do it with the borrowing powers and access to capital needed to stimulate our economy.”

It comes as the Fraser of Allander Institute warned this morning that a second wave of Covid-19 could delay Scotland’s recovery until 2024.

The institute said the scale of the economic challenge could see a “raft of redundancies and business closures” without financial support.

Mr Blackford added: “It would be completely unacceptable if the Tories were to leave the Scottish Parliament to respond to this huge economic crisis with one hand tied behind its back by refusing to devolve the powers needed and ushering in another decade of Tory austerity cuts.”

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