Scotland’s deficit has ballooned to £40billion, more than eight times the limit set for EU membership, the UK’s leading economic think tank has found. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said that the gap between Scotland’s spending and tax revenue was up to a quarter of the economy last year. The IFS estimated Scotland’s deficit had risen from 8.6 percent of GDP in the financial year before COVID-19 to between 22 and 25 percent of GDP in 2020-21.
The main difference was a massive injection of UK Treasury funding to help cope with the pandemic that allowed more spending in Scotland without an equivalent increase in Scottish tax revenue.
The UK deficit for 2020-21 is put at around 14.5 percent.
Despite the country’s weak economic performance, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is not only ramping up her calls for a second independence referendum but it also appears that her party spent an “outrageous” sum of taxpayers’ money for a failed Brexit court case.
In 2018, the SNP argued that the UK Withdrawal Bill put forward by former Prime Minister Theresa May undermined the founding principles of devolution and diluted the powers of the Scottish Parliament.
Ms Sturgeon’s ministers claimed that some EU powers – like support for farmers, control of our seas or food standards – fell within areas that are Holyrood’s responsibility.
Amid failing negotiations between the Scottish government and the UK government, the SNP introduced the EU Continuity Bill.
However, it was later referred to the Supreme Court by UK ministers, who claimed Holyrood acted outside its remit by passing the Bill.
It was the first time in the history of devolution that Westminster challenged legislation passed by Holyrood in the country’s highest court.
According to a 2019 report by the Scottish Sun, SNP Ministers spent £132,000 for the court case, which in January last year, ruled against them.
The Scottish Government’s expenses to the Supreme Court from January were buried in a long-delayed spending paper released in October.
The document listed a payment of £119,389 for the Continuity Bill showdown with Westminster over the return of more than 100 devolved powers post-Brexit.
However, the final figure was actually £12,000 higher, it emerged.
“The SNP has spent another outrageous sum of taxpayers’ money promoting its own nationalist agenda through the courts.
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“There was never any need for this bill but the SNP will take any opportunity to pursue separation, regardless of the cost to the people of Scotland.”
The Scottish Government said in a statement the legal bill included lawyers’ fees of £131,316.60, £160 court costs and £423 on admin.
However, the figure did not include the Lord Advocate’s expenses or internal legal advice from government briefs.
Last week, Ms Sturgeon opened formal talks with the Scottish Greens on a cooperation deal in government, in a move designed to cement a pro-independence majority at Holyrood and bolster its pro-climate credentials.
In a move mooted before the May elections, the First Minister said the SNP and Scottish Greens could jointly write policies on the climate crisis and the shift to net zero, in return for Green votes to back her spending plans and legislation.
The deal, which is likely to stop short of a full coalition agreement, could see the Greens win ministerial seats in future, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs.
A deal would be used by Ms Sturgeon to strengthen her hand in the battle with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Government for the legal authority to hold a second independence referendum and to ensure any referendum legislation carries a clear parliamentary mandate.