NICOLA Sturgeon has said it will be "catastrophic" if the UK Government refuses to provide extra cash to support the Covid-19 testing scheme.

The First Minister also called for “common sense to prevail” amid reports No 10 is set to get rid of legally binding isolation rules in England and will no longer fund Covid testing.

The FM made the call after it was reported Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid are at loggerheads over whether or not to stop the provision of free lateral flow and PCR tests.

She also said it would be “unnacceptable” for the public health decisions of devolved nations to be impacted by funding decisions taken by the UK Government.

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It comes as the Mirror reports that a Cabinet meeting set to be held on Monday morning was postponed until later in the day with minutes to go.

It’s understood that the meeting was to sign off on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s "Living with Covid" plan.

We told how Professor Linda Bauld said the PM’s bid to scrap isolation rules from Thursday will leave the UK “driving blind” in the pandemic.

The delay will add to speculation of a row between Sunak, who wants to scrap the testing scheme, and Javid, who is set to be pushing for cash to be funnelled into continued Covid surveillance. 

Responding to BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg's claim that the Department of Health and Treasury have agreed that no extra cash will be given to the scheme, but instead taken from the existing budget, the FM said it will have disastrous consequences. 

The National:

Javid is reportedly in a row with Sunak over the testing scheme

It's understood the Department of Health originally asked for more than £5bn to keep the scheme in place for essential healthcare workers, but the departments reportedly agreed no extra funding will be provided.

The FM wrote: "If this is correct, it’s catastrophic for the UK’s ability to ensure adequate Covid surveillance, outbreak management etc in future.

"To allow significant dismantling of the testing infrastructure built up in last 2 years would be inexcusable negligence given ongoing risks."

The FM added that she has expressed frustration with UK Government ministers over the lack of clarity over how this will affect devolved nations.

The First Minister said: “The reality of UK finance flows means this decision determines the money devolved administrations (paid for by taxpayers in Sc, Wales & NI) have for testing.

“Expressed frustration to @michaelgove this morning that we still don’t know & this delay deepens that.

“If Sunak wins, the concern is more than just an end to free access to testing in short term (a decision I don’t agree with) - it’ll also be hard for UK to retain adequate testing capacity for longer term surveillance & response to new variants.

“Let’s hope common sense prevails.”

The First Minister told journalists that the position the countries of the UK find themselves in due to funding arrangements was “illogical”.

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When asked if the announcement could see an end to testing north of the border, the FM said: “These are decisions that we will have to arrive at over today and tomorrow before accepted the position to the Scottish Parliament.

"We are back again being really starkly reminded of this illogical position that Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments have to deal with which is that we are responsible for public health decisions in our own countries, but it’s the Treasury who makes the funding decisions and they seem to be only triggered by the decisions Boris Johnson makes for England.

“That’s unsustainable, it’s unacceptable, but that’s the situation we’re in.

“So one of the questions that we are hoping to have answered today is what the remaining funding for testing is going to be.

The National:

It is understood that Sunak wants the testing scheme scrapped

“Presumably, England is not going to take away its testing infrastructure completely, so what the residual funding will be, what that then enables the devolved administration’s to support, I hope we get clarity on that later today.

“It would be unacceptable now, as it has been in the past, for the decisions that the Scottish Government or the Welsh or Northern Irish governments think are right for public health reasons are constrained because of decisions on funding that the Treasury are taking only on the basis of what is decided for England.”

On Sunday, Johnson told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme the UK spent £2 billion on testing in January alone and that such high expenditure did not need to continue.

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Business minister Paul Scully echoed this on Monday and told Sky News: “If you think what that £2 billion might go towards, there’s a lot of other backlogs in the NHS, other illnesses in the NHS, that that money could otherwise go for.

“So for every person that is worried about a test, there may be another person that’s worried about a cancer diagnosis, for instance.”

Johnson was expected to update MPs in the Commons on the plans on Monday afternoon before holding a press conference in the evening.

He said the proposal would be about “finally giving people back their freedom” after “one of the most difficult periods in our country’s history”.