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Convergence Review

Published: 24 Jun 2019 00:01

Letter from Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing to Secretary of State Michael Gove about convergence allocations.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has written to Secretary of State Michael Gove regarding the Scottish Government’s ongoing “disappointment” that Lord Bew’s Review is not being given access to all the relevant information to enable it to produce a fair and balanced report.

Having pushed the UK Government into finally holding this review, it is important that the panel has access to all available information. It is also important that it is free from Government to make recommendations about what action could be considered in order to address concerns about the past issues of funding allocations.

Full text of the letter below.

Thank you for your letter of 31 May concerning my request that the UK Government share ministerial advice with the Intra-UK Allocations review panel, in particular that which relates to the UK Government’s convergence allocation decision in 2013.  Thank you also for sharing your reply to Lord Bew on the same subject.

It is once again disappointing, that despite your assurances to both myself and Scottish stakeholders that you would release relevant information, you now refuse my and Lord Bew’s very reasonable request. 

One of the reasons you give for not releasing this information is that it is outside the scope of the terms of reference of the review.  I’m sure I don’t have to remind you that the Scottish Government has always taken issue with the greatly watered-down remit of the review, and specifically, the fact that it doesn’t cover the 2013 decision on the allocation of convergence monies. 

In 2013, then Secretary of State, Owen Paterson only promised a mid-term review as a sop for the UK Government’s decision not to allocate the full convergence uplift to Scotland.  The Scottish Government then had to continually press the UK Government to uphold its promise.  Now three years later and the promised review is, in my opinion, restricted and lacking all the evidence it needs to make well informed recommendations.

In fact, one could suggest, that UKG have deliberately set this review up as a panel, rather than an inquiry, to ensure it would not have a legal framework or powers to request information from Government.  Thus meaning, UKG would not be legally bound to share any previous advice to Ministers. 

While I do believe Lord Bew and the panel will do their utmost to provide a fair and balanced report, I feel the UK Government has done everything possible to hinder such an outcome.  Returning to your letter, I consider this latest impediment to be a breach of promise on both the convergence review and the failure to provide the advice. 

Fergus Ewing