Boris Johnson’s “levelling up” plan could see Aberdeen, Dundee and the Highlands handed millions of pounds in extra cash.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed details of two new schemes, the community renewal fund (CRF) and the levelling up fund, at Wednesday’s Budget that promised to “support high street regeneration, local transport and heritage assets”.
Local authority areas have been ranked in tiers according to need and will be invited to bid for a share of more than £1 billion from the funds.
According to the Treasury, where appropriate, the UK Government will seek “advice” from the devolved administrations on bids – but ultimately projects will be decided upon by local councils, MPs and Westminster, angering the SNP.
Scottish trade minister Ivan McKee, appearing before MPs on Thursday, hit out at the lack of consolations over the funds and methodology in deciding areas most in need.
Scottish trade minister Ivan McKee blasts the UK Government's levelling up/shared prosperity funds – says they are an 'assault' on devolution.
McKee says the Scot Gov has not been consulted at all over fund, 'we have been rebuffed and ignored at every turn'
— Dan O'Donoghue (@MrDanDonoghue) March 4, 2021
He said: “We’ve been rebuffed and ignored by the UK Government at every turn, which is hugely disappointing despite various efforts to engage in a grown up way.
“Of the conversations we have had, one with the Scotland Office was, frankly, quite embarrassing because they knew less about what was happening than we did.”
In fiery appearance before the Scottish Affairs committee, he said the funds were “clearly part of an assault on devolution”
He said: “The UK Government has now clearly set its stall out as wanting to engage, operate, act and take control of many aspects that are devolved.
“It really talks to an agenda that’s challenging the very premise of devolution.”
Pressed on whether he believed there was a “concerted attempt to bypass the Scottish Government”, he said: “The answer is yes, very clearly yes. I don’t think there’s any secret about that.”
Mr McKee also questioned the methodology behind the funding, saying the tier system “talks to a lack of understanding about Scotland”.
Governments can ‘work together’
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross later clashed with Mr McKee, telling the minister Scots wanted to see both the UK Government and Scottish Government working together.
“Far from damaging devolution, this shows that our two governments can both work together,” he said.
Mr McKee branded that point “ridiculous”, adding: “Of course, communities want to see the benefit of those funds and want to see governments working together and we’re very happy to do that.
“But we’ve also got to recognise there is a devolution settlement, which does specify what is reserved and what is devolved, and it’s a clear political act by the UK Government to cut across that.”