Local authorities across Scotland have been forced to go “cap in hand” to ministers to unlock funds set aside to help them prepare for Brexit amid fears existing spending plans may fall short of what is needed.
Councils have been told they must submit individual business cases to secure their share of cash made available to the Scottish Government for Brexit planning, despite counterparts in England being given direct access to equivalent funds.
Nearly £99 million has been handed over by the UK Government as a result of Barnett consequentials to help Scotland prepare for the UK leaving the European Union on October 31.
But despite the withdrawal date being just weeks away, so far just £1.6 million – the equivalent of £50,000 per council – has been handed down to local authorities.
It is understood Scottish local government body CoSLA has undertaken a detailed assessment of what additional resources may be required to meet post-Brexit demand, with environmental health services identified as a particular concern.
In Scotland food, health and safety, and environmental protection regulations have been heavily driven by EU legislation. Particular areas of interest include sectors such as the fishing industry, soft fruits and farming.
A senior official with knowledge of the discussions said CoSLA was now working on a collective approach to urge the Scottish Government to make further resources urgently available to councils.
Another said local authorities were being forced to “go cap in hand to Holyrood for money that’s rightfully ours already”.
Councils in Tayside and Fife have highlighted concerns around possible disruption to food, fuel and medicines but specifics have been kept strictly confidential in line with UK Government rules.
A CoSLA spokesman said it remained in “active discussions with the Scottish Government to assess the cost implications, particularly of a no deal Brexit”.
Angus MP Kirstene Hair called on the Scottish Government to “stop acting like Brexit isn’t going to happen and start acting like a responsible government and support our local authorities.”
A spokesman for Brexit secretary Mike Russell described Ms Hair’s comments as “gobsmacking” and insisted the Scottish Government should not have to cut spending on public services “to fund the Tory Brexit obsession”.
He said: “Scotland did not vote for Brexit and we should not be having to spend a single penny on Brexit preparations – this is similar to an arsonist setting fire to someone’s house and then complaining about the fire service’s efforts to extinguish the blaze.
“The fact is, the Scottish Government has allocated proportionately the same Brexit preparation funding to local authorities as the UK Government from the consequentials received to date. Local authorities can submit further funding requests for EU exit costs through the submission of a business case. This process has been put in place for all public sector bodies – and local government are not being treated differently.”