Urgent clarity required
Employment Minister Richard Lochhead has expressed concern and frustration at the continuing lack of clarity from the UK Government on how new EU replacement funds will be delivered in Scotland.
In a five page letter to UK Ministers, Mr Lochhead lists two years of unanswered questions covering the structure and management of the funds and how they will respect devolution.
Following the UK’s exit from the EU, the UK Government committed to replacing previous multi-year EU structural support, which was worth some £780 million to Scotland from 2014 to 2020 and channelled through the Scottish Government.
The UK Government has since failed to provide clarity on how its Shared Prosperity, Levelling Up, Community Renewal and Community Ownership funds will operate or how the awards they make will align with Scottish Government policies in devolved areas such as employment, transport and the environment.
Mr Lochhead said:
“Since the 1970s, substantial EU funding has supported Scotland’s businesses, infrastructure, environment and communities. We urgently need clarity from UK Government Ministers on how they will deliver its long overdue replacement, so it is beyond disappointing that they continue to refuse to engage with us in any meaningful way.
“My letter asks vitally important questions that we need urgent answers to – how devolution will be respected; what geographical criteria will be used when distributing grants; and whether money will be allocated according to need or through competitive bids. These are matters that the Scottish Government has been raising for almost two years with no clear response.
“We are committed to working with the UK Government to ensure public spending in Scotland delivers results for people and business. However, an increasingly complicated funding landscape and making spending decisions based on a UK agenda that is not aligned to Scottish Government priorities adds complexity and unnecessary confusion.
“These new funds must respect the responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament and deliver for Scotland at a crucial time for business. If they fail to do so, not only will it further damage the devolution settlement but also risk failing the communities that have benefited from EU funding.
“I hope to meet UK Ministers at the earliest opportunity to discuss these pressing issues.”
In the letter to Housing, Communities and Local Government Minister Luke Hall, Mr Lochhead calls for the Scottish Government to be treated as a full and equal partner in the development and delivery of the new funds.