COVID-19 Business support funding details: FOI release
Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002
1. Can you please confirm that every penny of business support funding for Covid received from the UK Government, has been passed on to Scottish businesses as promised by the First Minister?
2. What is the circa £250 million in funding provided from Westminster for Stamp duty / LBTT reductions being used for, since it has not been used to help home buyers and as business stimulus?
3. Can the Scottish Government please provide a full account of business support received from the UK Government and what money has actually been received by businesses, by grant type?
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested as an exemption under section 25(1) of FOISA applies (see ANNEX A). The information the Scottish Government holds that falls within the scope of your request is already reasonably accessible to you and in the public domain. This is an absolute exemption and as such the Scottish Government does not have to apply the public interest test in this case.
Questions 1 and 3 - The Scottish Government has provided more funding than consequentials received to support business. We can therefore confirm that all of the consequentials received from the UK government for business support have been passed on to businesses.
We are focused on delivering the maximum support for businesses and the economy as possible and since the start of the pandemic, our support for business totals more than £3 billion in 2020-21, more than a third of total COVID-19 funding this year.
The Scottish Government publishes statistics and management information relating to COVID-19 business support funding via our website. The details on how much money has been distributed through various COVID-19 business support funding schemes are updated regularly and can be found on the Scottish Government website at Coronavirus (COVID-19): business support funding statistics - gov.scot (www.gov.scot).
The find business support website is the main source of information for business providing details on the range of support, including funding relating to coronavirus, available to businesses in Scotland.
Question 2 - We do not recognise the £250 million estimate that you refer to in your correspondence, and it is important to be clear that any decisions by the UK Government in relation to Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) do not generate funding consequentials for Scotland. As such, the £1.2bn in COVID consequentials that the Scottish Government received at the UK Budget on 3 March 2021 does not include any funding related to the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT). Rather, it was predominantly comprised of funding relating to business support and rates relief.
To reflect that LBTT revenues are now devolved and retained by the Scottish Government, there is a deduction each year made from the Scottish Government’s block grant, known as a Block Grant Adjustment or BGA. Where SDLT receipts grow or decline in England and Northern Ireland, whether because of policy choices or economic performance, the amount that is adjusted from the Scottish Government’s block grant increases or decreases correspondingly. The Scottish Government has greater funding available than would otherwise have been the case in the event that its own revenues exceed the Block Grant Adjustment.
An explanation of how the BGAs work is set out in the Fiscal Framework technical note, which can be found here. In addition, the implications of the Fiscal Framework for the Scottish Budget 2021-22, including how the net position for the Scottish Budget 2020-21 has changed, can be found here.
For 2021-22, information setting out the changes between the provisional BGAs which underpinned the Scottish Budget 2021-22 and the updated UK Budget BGAs can be found here. Table 1 in the letter shows that it is estimated that the Scottish Government will have less funding available (-£7m) in relation to the net impact of LBTT, based on the latest forecasts, which now incorporate the UK Government’s extension to the Stamp Duty cut, relative to the previous BGA forecasts that underpinned the Scottish Budget 2021-22 (based on the forecasts produced by The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) alongside the Spending Review in November 2020).
The Scottish Government’s decisions on LBTT, including the temporary increase in the residential LBTT nil rate band until 31 March, take account of the specific circumstances of the Scottish housing market. In this regard, I would note that, excluding consideration of the Additional Dwelling Supplement, the temporary increase in the nil rate band to £250,000 has resulted in an estimated eight out of ten buyers and nine out of ten first-time buyers paying no tax. The Scottish Fiscal Commission forecast that the temporary change would reduce revenue by £33m this financial year and by £15m in 2021-22 as a result of forestalling. The costing is available here.
Scottish Budget 2021-22 confirmed that the nil rate band would return to £145,000 from 1 April 2021, as planned from the outset. Scottish Ministers again gave careful consideration to this following the UK Government’s decision to extent the temporary change to the residential SDLT nil rate band for a further period. However, the available data indicates that the temporary change has achieved its intended effect of stimulating activity and supporting recovery this financial year, and the Scottish Government has seen no evidence of the overall blockages in the housing market which have been reported for England.
Changes in funding through the tax Block Grant Adjustment arrangements are not hypothecated to particular elements of spending. While positive and negative adjustments are made in-year, managed through the Scottish Government’s normal budget management processes, these adjustments can sometimes offset each other across different taxes and social security benefits and the corresponding revenues and expenditure. Any associated net increases to the funding position can be used to support the Scottish Government’s wider tax and spending plans in the context of the Scottish Budget.
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.
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Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
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