The UK Chancellor made the “wrong choice” by announcing a cut in charges on domestic flights days before the global Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, Nicola Sturgeon has insisted.
The Scottish First Minister hit out at Rishi Sunak after he revealed plans to reduce air passenger duty (APD) charges for travellers on flights within the UK.
The reduction was part of Mr Sunak’s latest Budget, with Ms Sturgeon complaining that there was “much to be disappointed in” with the package of measures.
Green MSP Maggie Chapman raised her concerns with the First Minister about the cut in APD, saying this might “encourage climate-polluting, frequent flying within the UK”.
Ms Sturgeon told her the cut was not one the Scottish Government would have introduced.
She said: “I think it was the wrong choice a few days from Cop26 starting, when all of us have an obligation to think about how we contribute to reaching net zero and saving the planet, that the Chancellor chose to make that cut in aviation duty.
“It’s not a choice this this government would have made, but it is for them (the UK Government) to defend that in the months to come.”
Ms Sturgeon, speaking at First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament, also complained that the Chancellor’s Budget “does not do nearly enough to address the cost-of-living crisis that many individuals and families across the country are facing”.
And she said it would leave the Scottish Government facing “considerable challenges”.
That comes after the Chancellor claimed the UK Government was delivering the “largest block grants for the devolved administrations since the devolution settlement of 1998”.
He said the amount of cash the Scottish Government receives as a result of the Barnett formula will increase by an average of £4.6 billion a year, taking the total to some £41 billion annually.
But Ms Sturgeon argued that resources would be reduced when compared with this year, after Holyrood received additional funds to help with the response to Covid.
The First Minister said: “It will leave the Scottish Government with less resources in every year of the spending review than we have at our disposal this year.
“So it results in considerable challenges for the Scottish Government.”
She insisted: “Between this year and next year Scotland’s resource budget is being cut by 7.1% in real terms. The equivalent reduction for our capital budget is 9.7% in real terms. That’s the reality.”
Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said earlier that the Chancellor was “ignoring” the additional coronavirus money when he claimed Holyrood ministers were being given a record sum.
And she insisted the package would see the Scottish Government get “less funding for day-to-day spending in every year of the spending review period if you compare that to this year”.
Ms Forbes – who will unveil the draft Scottish Budget on December 9 – welcomed the “long-term certainty” the Chancellor had given with the multi-year funding package, saying it is the first time this has happened “in a very long time”.
But speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, she added: “On the suggestion there is more funding, of course he is ignoring the additional Covid money we had this year.
“The bulk of the Covid money came last year, and so my argument is we are actually getting less funding for day-to-day spending in every year of the spending review period if you compare that to this year.”
Ms Forbes stressed that as the pandemic continues to have an impact, it is “only right to expect that would be reflected in the Budget”.
But Mr Sunak insisted he is providing the “largest annual block grant in real terms since the devolution settlement”.
He added: “No matter how you cut it, there is very significant direct fiscal support going to the Scottish people, via the Scottish Government, as a result of the decisions that we took.”