SCOTLAND has missed out on unprecedented support from an emergency funding scheme announced by the European Union yesterday to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

A package of €37 billion for the 27 member states was unveiled yesterday, but as Scotland is in the process of being pulled out of the EU – despite voting to remain a member – it does not qualify for any of the funds.

The development comes after Boris Johnson has previously come under fire for not taking part in European efforts to source, barter for, and bulk-buy vital ventilators for coronavirus patients.

Alyn Smith, the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman at Westminster and a former MEP, told The National the unprecedented financial measures unveiled by the European leaders underlined the nature of the EU solidarity.

“The EU is proving what solidarity means. It is independent states working together to achieve more both in the world and in fighting this terrible virus at home,” he said.

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“The UK will have hell to pay over the inexcusable failure to participate in the ventilator procurement, but even while we are still asking questions about that, the EU announces an unprecedented stimulus programme to deal with the worst economic shocks.”

He added: “Scotland wants to work with our friends and neighbours across the continent and it is a crying shame that our voices have been limited by this ideological UK Government.”

Announcing the financial package yesterday, the European Council said two pieces of legislation had been adopted to quickly release funding from the EU budget for tackling the Covid-19 crisis.

One of the acts amends the rules of the structural and investment funds, while the other extends the scope of the EU Solidarity Fund.

It said the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative will give member states access to €37bn of cohesion money to strengthen healthcare systems, as well as support small and medium-sized enterprises, short-term working schemes, and community-based services.

Of the total, about €8bn will come from unspent pre-financing under the structural funds from 2019.

The new measure allows member states to spend unused money to mitigate the impact of the pandemic instead of returning it to the EU budget.

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Another €29bn will be disbursed early from allocations which would have been due later this year.

Expenditure will be made available as of February 1, 2020 to cover costs already incurred in efforts to save lives and protect citizens.

Member states will also have greater flexibility to make transfers between cohesion policy programmes in order to redirect resources to where they are most needed.

The Council also amended the scope of the EU Solidarity Fund to include public health emergencies in addition to natural disasters.

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It said the policy would help member states and accession countries meet people’s immediate needs during the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week Downing Street initially claimed it did not take part in the EU ventilator procurement scheme because the UK was “no longer a member”.

But, after criticisms it was prioritising “Brexit over breathing”, it then blamed an error – said to be the failure to receive an email – for missing the deadline, and said it would consider participating in future. However the EU later rejected this claim, saying the UK had been fully briefed on the plans and could have taken part in the scheme.

Johnson is under new pressure in light of the pandemic to extend the transition period with the EU, allowing the UK to remain in the single market and customs union.

But despite the crisis he has refused to extend the transition period. Under the withdrawal agreement the transition period ends on December 31, 2020, terminating UK membership of the EU completely. However, it can be extended for one or two years if both sides agree by July 1. The EU said it would back any extension request.

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