NICOLA Sturgeon has complained that Holyrood’s budget is being cut now that the country is no longer in lockdown and getting emergency support for the pandemic. 

The First Minister said “the reality” was Scotland’s day-to-day budget was shrinking by 7.1 per cent next year and its capital budget by 9.7% compared to 2021/22.

The Tories accused her of making a “phoney comparison”, given this year’s budget was dramatically inflated by billions extra to cope with Covid, and inventing a "grievance".

The clash came at FMQs after SNP MSP Kenny Gibson asked Ms Sturgeon about her assessment of yesterday’s budget.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the amount of cash the Scottish Government would receive under the Barnett funding formula would increase by an average £4.6bn a year relative to pre-pandemic levels, taking it to around £41bn a year.

Mr Sunak said it was the “largest annual block grant in real terms” since devolution began, adding: “No matter how you cut it, there is very significant direct fiscal support going to the Scottish people, via the Scottish Government, as a result of the decisions that we took.”

Treasury documents said Scotland’s resource budget would grow by 2.4 per cent a year over the course of the three-year spending review to 2024/25.

But Ms Sturgeon argued that resources would be reduced when compared with this year, after Holyrood received around £8bn extra help with the response to Covid.

She told MSPs: “It will leave the Scottish Government with less resources in every year of the spending review than we have at our disposal this year.

“So it results in considerable challenges for the Scottish Government.

“Between this year and next year Scotland’s resource budget is being cut by 7.1% in real terms. The equivalent reduction for our capital budget is 9.7% in real terms.” 

Tory MSP Stephen Kerr shouted that Ms Sturgeon was making a “phoney comparison”, given her baseline was so much higher than normal.

In response to the barracking, Ms Sturgeon insisted: “That’s the reality and I am not surprised that the Tories do not like it.”

She also quoted the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies saying the budget was “actually awful. ... more years of real incomes barely growing. High inflation, rising taxes, poor growth keeping living standards virtually stagnant for another half a decade”.

And she quoted the Resolution Foundation said three-quarters of the 4.4m households in the UK on Universal Credit would be worse off, despite tweaks to the system, because of the decision to end the £20-a-week uplift brought in for the pandemic.

She said: “Beyond the headlines, those are the realities for individuals and families right across the country. That is why the Conservatives did not want to hear the facts. 

Earlier, SNP Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said the Chancellor was “ignoring” the extra coronavirus money when he claimed Holyrood ministers were being given a record sum.

She said the package would see the Scottish Government get “less funding for day-to-day spending in every year of the spending review period if you compare that to this year”.

Ms Forbes - who will unveil her draft Scottish Budget on December 9 – welcomed the “long-term certainty” the Chancellor had given with the multi-year funding package, saying it is the first time this has happened “in a very long time”.

But she also told BBC Radio Scotland: “On the suggestion there is more funding, of course he is ignoring the additional Covid money we had this year. The bulk of the Covid money came last year, and so my argument is we are actually getting less funding for day-to-day spending in every year of the spending review period if you compare that to this year.”

Ms Forbes stressed that as the pandemic continued to have an impact it was “only right to expect that would be reflected in the Budget”.

Ms Sturgeon’s spokesman later denied the Scottish Government wanted exactly the same amount of money from the Treasury next year, but said the profound and lasting effects of the pandemic ought to be reflected in the settlement. 

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: “This is typical of Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP trying to manufacture a grievance when there isn’t one. Rishi Sunak has delivered the biggest block grant since devolution.

“Thanks to Rishi Sunak, the Scottish Governments budget will increase by £4.6bn next year, yet the SNP say he is short-changing Scotland.

“The only thing short-changing Scotland is the SNP’s continued attempts to create division, rather than welcoming record funding to support vital jobs and public services across Scotland.”