We have maintained that the replacement of European Union funding through the UK shared prosperity fund ought to be devolved to the Scottish Government and Parliament to guarantee that investment best supports our national economic priorities.
As the UK Government has chosen to bypass the Scottish Government in delivering the UKSPF, it is difficult to ensure alignment with Scotland’s national strategy for economic transition. Despite that, we will continue to work in partnership with our local authorities to ensure that all resources deliver the greatest benefit for Scotland.
Given that the UK Government plans yet another fund that is intended to bypass the Scottish Government and that Westminster’s Public Accounts Committee noted in a recent report that the UK Government does
“not yet have a strong understanding” of what delivers local growth, will the minister consider legislation or perhaps even guidance in order to ensure that Scottish local authorities must take account of Scottish priorities when bidding for such funds?
I noticed that Conservative members sighed when the member pointed out that one of the Westminster committees supports some of the concerns of the Scottish Government.
We have no plans to legislate at this stage with Scottish local authorities. They have their own powers, responsibilities and financial freedom to operate independently, so it would not be appropriate for the Scottish Government to do so. However, we are very clear that we want to use the regional economic partnerships as well as have discussions with local government to see where we can ensure that public investment is aligned with national priorities.
Michelle Thomson highlights an important example of why the shared prosperity fund should have been devolved to Parliament, given that we were promised that Brexit would strengthen Scottish devolution and that European funding would be matched. Instead, there is a massive shortfall and this Parliament has been bypassed.