‘Unacceptable’ for devolved governments’ decisions to be impacted by Westminster

The decision to end or reduce free testing in England would have funding implications for the other devolved administrations.

21 February 2022

It would be “unacceptable” for public health decisions of the devolved administrations to be impacted by funding decisions taken by the UK Government, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Reports suggest the Prime Minister could announce an end to mass testing on Monday.

This would have funding allocations for the devolved administrations that could see testing end before the decision is taken by the separate governments, or cuts to other services to continue funding free testing.

The First Minister told journalists that the position the countries of the UK find themselves in due to funding arrangements was “illogical”.

When asked if the announcement could see an end to testing north of the border, the First Minister said: “These are decisions that we will have to arrive at over today and tomorrow before accepted the position to the Scottish Parliament, we are back again being really starkly reminded of this illogical position that Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments have to deal with which is that we are responsible for public health decisions in our own countries, but it’s the Treasury who makes the funding decisions and they seem to be only triggered by the decisions Boris Johnson makes for England.

“That’s unsustainable, it’s unacceptable, but that’s the situation we’re in.

“So one of the questions that we are hoping to have answered today is what the remaining funding for testing is going to be.

“Presumably, England is not going to take away its testing infrastructure completely, so what the residual funding will be, what that then enables the devolved administration’s to support, I hope we get clarity on that later today.

“It would be unacceptable now, as it has been in the past, for the decisions that the Scottish Government or the Welsh or Northern Irish governments think are right for public health reasons are constrained because of decisions on funding that the Treasury are taking only on the basis of what is decided for England.”

Michael Gove
The First Minister said she had ‘expressed frustration’ to Michael Gove during a meeting on Monday (Steve Parsons/PA)

On Twitter, the First Minister said she had “expressed frustration” about the decision to Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove during a meeting on Monday morning.

With the UK Government laying out its plans on Monday and Ms Sturgeon outlining the Scottish Government’s strategic framework on Tuesday – which is expected to be more cautious than the Prime Minister’s proposals – there could again be points of diversion between the two administrations.

In other parts of the world, namely Canada and New Zealand, ongoing governmental interference has led to protests, with lorry drivers blocking border crossings between Canada and the US.

The protests – which are rooted in baseless conspiracy theories – resulted in the arrest of more than 100 people in the city of Ottawa at the weekend after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

But the First Minister said she was not worried about similar demonstrations if England eases the remaining restrictions quicker than Scotland.

“We think very carefully about all the decisions we take. I look at polling evidence, and the Scottish Government has done regular polling, that would suggest that, yeah, everybody wants to get back to normal, I want to get back to normal, but there’s strong support for sensible measures, that people understand the role they play in helping to contain the virus,” she said.

“I also think it’s important not to overstate the number or extent of restrictions or protective measures that are still in place in Scotland. They are actually very, very limited right now, life is much more normal now than it has been at any point over the past two years.”

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