Levelling Up Funding (Local Authorities)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 20 April 2022.

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Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative

4. To ask the Scottish Government what support it is offering to local authorities to help them maximise the amount of levelling up funding that they receive from the United Kingdom Government. (S6O-00969)

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

As the UK Government continues to develop and implement the levelling up fund without the consent, agreement or engagement of this Parliament or the Scottish ministers, the Scottish Government has been excluded from meaningful or formal involvement in the process. The lack of respect for devolution has been further exacerbated by the fact that the fund enters into devolved areas, which means that the UK Government is encroaching into areas in which the Scottish Parliament was elected to deliver.

We will, of course, work with our regional partners in all their endeavours, building on the close partnerships that we have established since devolution.

Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative

I would have liked to hear an answer to my question in the minister’s response.

In Falkirk, there has been very welcome investment by the UK Government that has funded what I call the magic roundabout at the Helix, which will open up investment opportunities at junction 6 of the M9. There is a new regional growth deal in the offing, as well as the hope of landing one of Scotland’s two free ports at Grangemouth. At the same time, the Scottish Government has cut the funding for flood prevention and has frozen the council’s capital grant. Are local authorities such as Falkirk Council to rely solely on the support of the UK Government to level up and power up their local areas?

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

If the Conservative UK Government had stuck to its pledges and promises that it made to the people of Scotland to—unsuccessfully—persuade Scotland to vote for Brexit, a lot more resource and money would be flowing into Falkirk, Central Scotland and the rest of the country. Instead, we have had broken promises, with the UK Government trampling all over devolution and threatening democracy in this country. If Stephen Kerr requires more investment for his areas, he should be making strong representation to his good friends in the UK Government.

Photo of Siobhian Brown Siobhian Brown Scottish National Party

What is the Scottish Government’s response to the UK Government failing to replace European Union funding, as promised, which will see South Ayrshire short-changed by £3.1 million?

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

The UK Government has clearly failed to provide an appropriate replacement for EU funding, as we were promised if Brexit was to go ahead, not only in South Ayrshire but across the whole of Scotland.

For the record, Stephen Kerr is laughing as I make that point. It is worth noting that our communities and our economy are losing out due to the broken promises of the Government that he supports. The overall Scottish quantum for the UK shared prosperity fund, which was earmarked to succeed the European funds, is only £212 million over three years, with only £32 million in the first of those three years. In anyone’s book, that is an insufficient replacement for EU structural funds. Indeed, £36 million of that funding that has been announced has already been ring fenced for the UK Government’s multiply programme. Therefore, the UK Government has let down Scotland, South Ayrshire and communities the length and breadth of the country.

Photo of Kaukab Stewart Kaukab Stewart Scottish National Party

Does the minister agree with me that the UK’s so-called shared prosperity fund will distribute just £32 million around Scotland this year, whereas it is estimated that EU membership would have seen communities around Scotland benefit from funding of £183 million? Does he further agree that that adds financial insult to democratic injury for the people of Scotland?

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

The Tory Government’s betrayal of Scotland over this issue is, indeed, an insult to democracy in this country, this Parliament and this Government. I ask members on the Conservative benches, in particular, to remember that they are here to represent their constituents, not the UK Government in London.

It is, indeed, the case that we are getting only £32 million as opposed to the £183 million that we were expecting to replace the EU funds that we are losing out on because of a Brexit that Scotland did not vote for.