THE UK Government has announced plans to spend millions on projects across Scotland by working directly with local authorities.
It is part of its plan to ‘level up’ the country, with similar schemes set for Wales and Northern Ireland and was first drawn up as part of the controversial Internal Market Bill published last year.
The Bill was said by SNP MPs as well as some in Wales and Northern Ireland, to be an attempt to snatch power from devolved administrations following the UK’s complete exit from the European Union.
Now the UK Government has announced more details of the plan to invest directly in capital projects alongside local authorities, rather than provide the funding in Barnett consequentials to the Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish Governments.
The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Steve Barclay, confirmed today that £4.8billion would be set aside for use in areas which have ‘received less government investment in recent years’.
Initially the Chancellor announced that £4bn was being set aside for the scheme at his spending review last year, however today Mr Barclay said the total had been increased by £800million to provide funds to allow the whole of the UK to benefit. According to the Treasury, the £4.8bn will be for use across the country, with at least £800m being spent in the devolved nations.
Steve Barclay MP
Capital projects which could benefit from the cash include town centre and high street regeneration, local transport, cultural and heritage projects.
Mr Barclay said: “We are committed to levelling-up opportunities right across the United Kingdom so that all communities can benefit from our future prosperity.
“Our levelling-up fund will back local projects to improve everyday life for millions of people and we look forward to working with all areas to boost local economies.
“By extending the levelling-up fund to be UK-wide, we are ensuring that no community in the United Kingdom is left behind.”
Further details of how the scheme will work are to be published in a prospectus at the time of the Budget next Wednesday.
Alister Jack, Secretary of State for Scotland said the funding would help Scotland’s recovery from the coronavirus and was a “fantastic example of the UK Government delivering for people in Scotland.”
He said: “It will provide a boost to communities right across Scotland as we set out to Build Back Better from the Covid pandemic.
“This fund will allow us to directly invest in capital projects in Scotland. I look forward to working on the delivery of the fund in Scotland and with local authorities, who know best what their communities really need.”
Secretary of State Alister Jack with Boris Johnson
Alongside the fund, Mr Jack cited City and Region Growth Deals, Freeports, the Union Connectivity Review, and preparing for a new UK Shared Prosperity Fund as other examples of where Westminster was “investing in Scotland’s future prosperity”.
It comes at a time when numerous polls in a row have shown majority support for Scottish independence, and the Holyrood May elections are being viewed as a test of the strength of that desire.
Downing Street has been bolstering its Scotland Office staff numbers and attempting to develop a Union Unit, which advises the Prime Minister on the state of the union.
However last week Oliver Lewis left his role as head of the unit after just two weeks, replacing former Scottish Conservative MP Luke Graham.
The position remains unfilled.