Scotland already spending ‘no-deal’ Brexit money

4 Apr 19

The Scottish Government has defended its allocation of resources to councils to help them prepare for Brexit, saying it was up to local government to quantify the additional costs it faced.

Michael Russell, cabinet secretary for government business and constitutional relations, says the £92m allocated to Scotland through the Barnett mechanism for no-deal Brexit planning is already being used across the public sector.

“Those [resources] have been distributed across the portfolios, and, for example, within the local government settlement, primarily for the work that is already being done,” he told the Scottish Parliament’s finance and constitution committee.

He was now encouraging councils and others to identify additional costs incurred in the course of Brexit preparations so that further funding could be sought from the UK government.

“In a sense, a bill is being created of what the additional costs have been over and above the monies that are in the system, and that is where we are now,” Russell said.

An idea would emerge “in the coming weeks” of what that additional expenditure had been, he added.

Labour MSP James Kelly asked why funding allocated from the UK government had not been passed on to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

“None of the £92m which was allocated specifically for no-deal planning has gone to local authorities,” he said.

Russell denied that was the case. “That money is across the system and is being used by every part of the system,” he said.

In England, there was a direct funding relationship between the UK government and local authorities, while funding in Scotland went to the Scottish Government to be allocated as appropriate, said Russell.

“I am differentiating from the £92m which has been spread in that way and is helping us to meet all the additional costs right across the public sector … additional specified costs which we need to know about so we can essentially draw up the bill,” he said.

But Alison Evison, president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, said that local government had not yet received the financial support needed to prepare local services for Brexit.

“Indeed, the local government budget settlement made no mention of it, including additional revenue to meet costs relating to Brexit,” she said, adding that there was “no capacity” in council budgets for extra expense.

COSLA had requested financial support from the Scottish Government and was awaiting a positive response, said Evison.

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