In a stab at Nicola Sturgeon, Stephen Barclay stressed the support given to Scotland would not be possible without the Union. Since the beginning of the outbreak, he said the Scottish Government has been given billions in support from the UK Government in Barnett consequentials, based on spending in other parts of Britain.
Scotland has also benefited from the Job Retention Scheme, which allowed firms to furlough 930,000 staff members with 80 percent of their wages being covered by Whitehall.
Mr Barclay said: “If we hadn’t been able to draw upon the financial backing of the entire UK economy, it doesn’t bear thinking about what would have happened to the people behind these businesses.
“The extra shops that would have been left empty, and the jobs that would have been lost.”
He added: “While, as with families, we might disagree at times, what we have achieved since March – protecting jobs and saving businesses – makes the strength of the union undeniable.”
Stephen Barclay made clear the strength of the Union
Nicola Sturgeon will set out her 2020-21 Parliamentary plan tomorrow
The minister claimed Holyrood was “one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world” and stressed, “Scotland still benefits from being part of one of the most successful countries in the world, the UK”.
He added: “Instead of making arguments about powers and process, my colleagues and I are focused on delivery.”
Mr Barclay has been among a raft of UK ministers to visit north of the border in recent months, including the Prime Minister and Chancellor, as the UK Government looks to cement the benefits of the union in the eyes of a Scottish electorate appearing to be shifting towards separation.
Recent polls have put support for independence as high as 55 percent this month, with voters in June and July returning 54 percent support for leaving the UK.
Stephen Barclay recently awarded £1.9 billion to Holyrood
During a visit to Edinburgh in July, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury said that a further Ł1.9 billion in funding had been given to the Scottish Government to see out the year and fund initiatives to tackle the effects of COVID-19, in lieu of granting more fiscal flexibility for Scotland.
However, Scotland’s Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and other Scottish ministers have repeatedly pushed for the flexibility to borrow more and to be able to move capital underspend over to day-to-day revenue spending.
Speaking this weekend, Ms Forbes said “independence will give Scotland the powers we need to grow our economy and invest in our people and public services to create a fairer and wealthier country.”
However, Westminster has repeatedly rejected the idea.
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It comes after the SNP were dealt a hammer blow last week after figures revealed Scotland’s fiscal deficit grew to 8.6 percent of GDP in the 2019/20 financial year, with government spending £15.1 billion more than is received in revenues.
The deficit rose from 7.4 percent the previous year, while the UK’s deficit stood at 2.5 percent compared to 1.9 percent last year.
Total public sector expenditure for the benefit of Scotland, including both UK and Scottish Government spending, rose by 3.1 percent to £81 billion.
This is equivalent to £14,829 per person in Scotland, £1,633 per person greater than the UK average.
Stephen Barclay met Kate Forbes earlier this year
Ms Forbes said it was “incredibly frustrating” Scotland could not borrow to invest in recovery.
She added: “Although Gers is not the Scottish Government’s budget and reflects the current constitutional arrangements whereby another government’s policy choices are allocated to Scotland, the publication sets out the context for why the status quo and the present constitutional arrangements are unsustainable.
“Scotland simply cannot afford not to have the powers of a normal independent country.”
Additional reporting by Craig Paton