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Rishi Sunak Rejects Scottish Independence Calls as Treasury Reveals Regional Funding Inequity

© REUTERS / Hannah MckayBritain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak reacts as he leaves Downing Street, in London, Britain July 8, 2020.
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak reacts as he leaves Downing Street, in London, Britain July 8, 2020. - Sputnik International
As public support for a second independence referendum builds in Scotland, Westminster Conservative leaders are working to promote what they see as the strength of the United Kingdom's consolidated effort in tackling the coronavirus crisis.

The UK chancellor while on a visit to Scotland on Friday dismissed claims that a vote on independence is a priority amid the coronavirus pandemic and encroaching economic crisis.

Rishi Sunak, who is visiting firms who have received support from the Treasury's multi-billion pound stimulus package, lauded as an example of the United Kingdom's success.

"I don't think now is the time to be talking about these constitutional questions", the chancellor said.
"I think everyone's sole focus and certainly my sole focus right now is doing what we can to protect peoples' jobs and their livelihoods at what is an incredibly difficult time for our economy.

He urged people not to "focus on these kind of divisive, constitutional questions" and instead to focus on "rebuilding for the future". 

Mr Sunak also said that Holyrood has become one of the "most powerful devolved parliaments in the world" and rejected accusations by the ruling Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) of Brexit opportunism.

He also said that 65,000 Scots firms have been given access to "discounted" loans from the Treasury to help them throughout the economic turbulence which has resulted from the lockdown.

"But it goes beyond that - helping an sharing through testing, PPE, the army, building test centres. And now on vaccines, being able to, as a United Kingdom, sign these really important vaccine deals with companies around the world to make sure we're well positioned to benefit from that", he added.

​The Scottish Government has criticised Westminster over repatriation rules following Brexit, claiming that the UK government has taken over responsibilities which previously were devolved.

Sunak rejected the accusations saying that the UK now has powers that "used to be executed in Brussels and in the EU and those are being repatriated back to the UK" and that 80 to 100 powers will be returned to the Scottish government.

"There is nothing that's currently being done by the Scottish Government that will now be done in Westminster. That's what most people would understand to be a power grab", he said.

Around one-third of the Scottish labour force has been put on the UK-wide furlough scheme, aimed to keep people employed and supported through coronavirus lockdown, during which all non-essential workers were asked to stay home.

This comes on the same day as a regional breakdown published by The Treasury revealed that of the 40 billion pounds of state funding as part of its ‘bounce back’ and ‘coronavirus business interruption loan scheme’ (CBILS),  Scotland and the South West of England received a lower share of national lending than before the coronavirus pandemic, while the largest loans went to London firms.

In the statement, Sunak said that emergency lending was intended to support “jobs, incomes, and businesses across every corner of the UK”.

Businesses in Scotland were offered 6% of the total bounce back loans, a drop from the 9% market share of small business lending in 2019, UK Finance data reveals.

The visit by the chancellor follows a similar trip made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month, echoing the arguments made around vaccinations, military mobilisation, and financial support schemes under the union.

Recent rolling by YouGov has shown that Sunak is the only Tory minister with a net-positive approval rating among Scots.

​Nationalist sentiment has risen significantly in recent years, with polls now showing a majority in favour of independence since the 2019 general election, where the SNP won the majority of seats in the country while England returned a Conservative & Unionist majority.

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