The leader of Perth and Kinross Council has strongly refuted accusations his administration is holding up progress on the £1.8 billion Tay Cities Deal.
Local authority leader Ian Campbell has clashed with SNP MP Pete Wishart over claims there was “growing impatience” and frustration amongst other authorities involved in the bid.
Mr Wishart wrote to Mr Campbell demanding assurances following an exchange at the Scottish Affairs Committee with Scotland Office Minister Lord Duncan.
Lord Duncan told Mr Wishart the spread of projects put forward as part of the application “isn’t quite as large as we would like” and said the Perthshire area would be looked at again.
Angus, Dundee, Fife and Perth and Kinross councils – as well as public, private and voluntary organisations – are working together on the deal which could unlock a “once in a lifetime” package of investment from both Scottish and UK governments.
Each area has identified projects which could benefit from the windfall, including – in Perth’s case – the Cross Tay Link Road and Perth City Hall renovation.
Asking at Tuesday’s committee meeting if there was an issue with the balance between reserved and devolved areas, Lord Duncan said: “It isn’t as much. Everyone wants a bit of Scottish Government money and it is mostly infrastructure that the local authorities have pitched for, and infrastructure rests in the devolved space.
“We’re very conscious that that’s not where we can spend and so we’re looking at the reserved space, and how we can help identify, in areas like Perthshire and Angus, where we can see ways of helping develop projects.”
Speaking after the committee, Lord Duncan insisted that progress was going well and there was no suggestion of a delay.
Mr Wishart said the comments suggested an underlying problem: “There are now increasing concerns about the signing off of the Tay Cities Deal because of Perth and Kinross Council’s failure to deliver a balanced package of bids in reserved and devolved areas.”
He said funding for all city deals is match funded by the UK and Scottish Governments and all bids needed to reflect a split between UK and Scottish funding.
“At the Scottish Affairs Committee, Lord Duncan appeared to suggest that the Tay Cities Deal may be held up because of an imbalance of Scottish and UK offers from Perth and Kinross Council.
“I don’t need to remind this Tory council just how important this deal is to the whole Tayside area.
“There is growing impatience with Perth and Kinross Council from partners in the Tay Cities Deal, frustrated at this delay.
“This is far too important for Perthshire and this Tory administration now needs to get its act together and get this resolved.”
Mr Campbell rejected the claims, claiming Mr Wishart was “confused”. He said: “I have spoken to Lord Duncan today about this issue.
“There is no delay in securing the Tay Cities Deal. It is currently being evaluated by both governments and is in line with the timetable.
“In fact, Scottish Government Minister Keith Brown will be in Perth next week to discuss the deal’s progress.”
He added: “It would appear that once again our MP with a wafer thin majority is confused. Mr Wishart claims there is no ‘balance’ between the UK and Scottish Government bids.
“There is no requirement to have balance in the bids because, as the name suggests, this is a Tay Cities Deal. What matter is the overall level of gain for Tayside. We will all benefit.”
Mr Campbell dismissed claims of growing frustration as “nonsense”.
“I meet regularly with my opposite numbers in Dundee, Angus and Fife and we are totally supportive of each other and focused on getting the best deal for Tayside.”