The UK Government has failed to engage with us in a meaningful way across a number of EU programmes, including fisheries, structural funds and competitive programmes such as Erasmus+. We have been clear and consistent in our position that we expect full replacement of EU funds to ensure no detriments to Scotland’s finances, and we expect the UK Government to fully respect the devolution settlement in any such future arrangements.
Scotland’s uncertain outlook on the replacement of EU programme funding continues, and provisions in the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 and the decision to reduce the spending review to a single year only exacerbate it.
One of the most important EU funding streams for Scotland’s rural and coastal communities has been the LEADER programme. The current programme is ending and, sadly, there are no proposals for long-term support for the types of innovative community projects that LEADER has supported in the past three decades.
Does the Scottish Government support a long-term replacement for LEADER, and how could that goal be achieved, now that those EU funding streams are coming to an end?
The member is right to be concerned about LEADER, which, although it has had its critics, has been influential in rural Scotland—as he and I know. It is vital that there are such programmes, but the UK Government is simply not bringing them forward in any detail or at all. A consultation is taking place on funding, but it is not clear what will happen as a result of it.
Considerable misleading information is also being put out. The UK Government said yesterday, in response to a remark that I made about the Erasmus scheme, that it had
“worked very closely with devolved administrations ... to prepare an alternative programme, in the event the UK chose not to participate in Erasmus.”
That is simply not true. The reality of the situation is that not only has the UK Government deployed its replacement, the Turing scheme, via the Internal Market Act 2020, which removes all devolved competency and all involvement in the design or implementation of the replacement schemes, but it has set—and this should worry the member about LEADER—a budget that is far lower than that which the Erasmus scheme presently experiences; in addition, it has refused to release its assessment of why it will not take part in the programme.
That all bodes very ill for those in my constituency, and those who are represented by Mr Smyth and others, who are reliant on the LEADER scheme, because they do not have any friends in such matters in the UK Government.
It is not only surprising, but wrong. The reality is that the Scottish Government, which has been involved in the distribution of social funding money, should be involved in, for example, the shared prosperity fund, and we have made proposals on that. However, ideologically, the UK Government is hidebound on the matter. The UK Government dislikes devolution and dealing with the devolved Administrations, and it wants to pretend that all the money comes from it. However, it does not even know what that money will look like, let alone how much it will be.