KATE Forbes has told the Chancellor to hand over £1.7 billion to allow Scotland to properly respond to the pandemic – warning it is “imperative” the cash is made available immediately.

The Finance Secretary has written to Mr Sunak, demanding that the UK Government releases more than £21 billion that was set aside to deal with the Covid-19 crisis in the next financial year.

Ms Forbes has told the UK Chancellor to release cash totalling more than £21 billion that was set aside to deal with Covid-19 in the next financial year.

Ms Forbes says the extra money could be worth around £1.7 billion to Scotland in Barnett consequentials – to help pay for further work to help mitigate the impact of the virus.

The move comes after Scottish councils, under the umbrella organisation, Cosla, called for the Scottish Government to properly finance local authorities in order to respond to the crisis in the remained of this financial year and when Ms Forbes delivers her draft Budget for 2021-22 on January 28.

READ MORE: Councils call for extra £1.5bn and 'no cap' on council tax

Ms Forbes has warned Mr Sunak that “the new strain of Covid and subsequent tightening of restrictions mean that further funding is required now, to provide certainty to the end of this financial year and into 2021-22.”

The Chancellor held more than £21 billion back in reserves to help with the UK’s coronavirus efforts when he announced his spending review late last year.

Ms Forbes said: “If this was allocated against devolved spending areas, it would result in additional funding of around £1.7 billion for Scotland.

“It is imperative that this funding is released now so that plans can be made to mitigate the impact of the virus as far as possible on our health service, business and the wider economy.”

Ministers in Edinburgh have already received an additional £8.6 billion from the UK Government to help mitigate the impact of Covid-19.

But the Holyrood Finance Secretary made the plea for the additional cash to be released just over two weeks before she is due to announce the Scottish Government’s draft Budget.

READ MORE: Kate Forbes says Chancellor's £375m lockdown cash 'not new'

To help with this she said that “clarity” was needed from the UK Government on how much cash from other initiatives – the Shared Prosperity Fund and the Levelling Up Fund – should come to Scotland.

Ms Forbes told the Chancellor: “It is vital that clarity on these schemes and the share of funding for Scotland is set out in advance of the Scottish Budget on January 28 for planning purposes.

“Our focus is on delivering the maximum possible support for business and wellbeing through this critical period.”

Speaking as the letter was sent, Ms Forbes said: “We welcome the £8.6 billion received so far in Covid-19 consequentials. Virtually all of this has already been allocated and is being spent supporting our businesses, NHS, public services and the rollout of vaccines.

“However, demand continues to outstrip the resources available and our inability to borrow on the financial markets, or even use unspent capital funding to address immediate needs, leaves us reliant on the UK Government.

“The new strain of the virus and subsequent tightening of restrictions mean that further funding is required now. I urge the UK Government to release our share of these reserves so we can provide the maximum support to businesses and the health service during this critical period.”

Scottish Labour has welcomed Ms Forbes' appeal but has called on the Scottish Government to quicken the pace of handing out business support.

The party's deputy leader and finance spokesperson, Jackie Baillie, said: “This pandemic is the greatest economic crisis in living memory and Kate Forbes is correct in calling on the Chancellor to release these vital funds to help Scotland’s recovery.

“Nonetheless, it is vital that the SNP acts now to ensure that the funds that they currently have reach Scottish businesses without further delay.

“Businesses across Scotland are teetering on the precipice of bankruptcy and it is the SNP’s duty to act now to ensure that they do not go to the wall.

“As Cosla has made clear, Scotland’s councils are at breaking point after nearly a decade and a half of SNP cuts – if the Chancellor makes any new funding available to the Scottish Government, our frontline councils must also be supported alongside business.”

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “People and businesses in Scotland continue to benefit from UK-wide schemes like grants for the self-employed and furlough – which the UK Government are paying for.

“We have also given the Scottish Government an additional £8.6 billion of upfront funding this year to help them to respond to the pandemic, as well as a further £1.3 billion for Covid-19 support next year.

“The Scottish Government already have significant borrowing powers, which are on top of the share of UK Government borrowing they receive through the Barnett formula.”