– in the Scottish Parliament on 11th February 2021.
3. To ask the Scottish Government what recent discussions it has had with the United Kingdom Government regarding the administration of the proposed UK shared prosperity fund to support Scotland’s rural economy. (S5O-05011)
D espite the importance of European Union structural and social funds to Scotland’s rural communities, there has been a continued lack of information from the UK Government regarding its proposed replacement, the UK shared prosperity fund. For several years now our requests have been ignored, with little meaningful engagement about how the fund will be delivered and allocated or about whether the replacement to the LEADER programme will be included.
Our published proposals for Scotland’s share of those funds in the future make it clear that the UK Government should extend the fund to include a replacement for LEADER. Notwithstanding the lack of clarity from the UK Government on that, we recently announced an extension of the current LEADER programme until the end of 2021.
The Tory Government has indicated that it will bypass the devolved Administrations to replace European funds. Given that Tory MSPs on the Finance and Constitution Committee accepted that those moneys must be spent in Scotland by the Scottish Government and its local partners, does the minister agree that, if the Scottish Tories want to save any face at all, it is time that they stopped undermining devolution and told Boris Johnson that those funds must be spent by Scotland in Scotland?
Yes, absolutely. As well as the lack of detail on the shared prosperity fund— despite ministers asking about the matter consistently for many years—we have seen, through this and other processes, that the Tories do not care enough about the interests of rural Scotland. They are using every opportunity that Brexit presents to grab both powers and funding from Scotland’s Parliament, and Scotland as a whole will lose out as a result.
The Tories are proving what some of us have long suspected: that they just do not respect devolution. Everything that rural Scotland values, which is embodied in schemes such as the LEADER programme, is at risk right now, because Brexit and the ideological, reckless and disrespectful approach of the UK Government are doing real damage and will continue to do so if the UK Government proceeds in the same fashion.