Boris Johnson’s speech in Dudley was a starter in announcing the UK Government’s fiscal recovery plan, the main course being served up by Rishi Sunak tomorrow, but Johnson’s words haven’t wet the appetite in anticipation for the chancellor’s key speech leaving many feeling unfulfilled.
SNP member and Westminster representative for Aberdeen South Stephen Flynn said the UK government has ignored Scotland during the crisis, and described the speech as a “damp squib”.
Mr Flynn said of Johnson’s speech: “The plans fail to live up to the moment when transformative change is needed. The prime minister ignored Scotland and the other devolved nations – failing to deliver any significant new money for jobs.”
In his speech Johnson praised the importance of the union in helping combat the devastation wrought by coronavirus saying; “when you look at the whole effort you can see the absolutely vital role of that union and that partnership.” The PM went on to praise the armed service and the “might” of the UK treasury in relation to the statement.
Mr Flynn went on to say: “The economy requires action on a massive scale rather than more spin from Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings.
“Unlike the UK government, the Scottish Government has put forward ambitious plans to kickstart our economy by injecting nearly £80billion in a real recovery plan.”
SNP Finance Secretary Kate Forbes recommended an £80billion recovery plan last week which she encouraged the UK government to consider and, if choosing not to take up the SNP’s recommendation, Forbes urged Westminster to grant Scotland “additional powers” to produce an economic recovery plan of its own.
Conservative councillor for Lower Deeside Phillip Bell shot back at Flynn’s calls for more money to be released saying SNP claims should be taken with a “pinch of salt”.
Councillor Bell said: “when the First Minister announced £62million to the NE of Scotland for energy transition this was fantastic for the region’s net-zero aspirations, but then to repeatedly intone a mantra that thirty per cent of the Scottish workforce is furloughed and likely to be furloughed for a further two years and asking the UK Government to finance this must be taken with a pinch of salt.”
Councillor Bell went on to describe how the £5billion offered by Johnson could be seen as a way to stimulate the private sector into accelerating recovery.
Councillor Bell explained: “Johnson targeting £5billion could be taken as the government not doing all the ‘heavy lifting’ by actually ‘pump-priming’ investment from the private sector.”
SNP and representative at Holyrood for Aberdeen South and North Kincardine Maureen Watt said she welcomed Johnson’s announcement to dual the A1 between England and Scotland, but was left “underwhelmed” with much of the speech in Dudley.
When asked whether Johnson was able to narrow the gap between the political ambitions of the SNP and Tories Ms Watt was adamant.
“Absolutely not. A number of elections recently have shown that Scotland emphatically rejects Boris Johnson, his party’s ideology and style of politics. As support for both independence and the SNP government’s handling of the crisis increases, I believe crumbs thrown northwards will not stop this momentum.”
Rishi Sunak announces a more comprehensive economic update to the Commons tomorrow.