Scottish Government ministers say they have had “no clear response” from Westminster on how a post-Brexit funding scheme will work – despite asking questions for almost two years.
The Employment Minister, Richard Lochhead, said he was “beyond disappointed” with the UK Government on the issue of how its Shared Prosperity Fund – brought in as a replacement for EU structural funding – would work.
He has written to UK ministers asking a series of “vitally important questions that we need urgent answers to”.
The letter, to housing, communities and local government minister Luke Hall, demands to know how money from the scheme will be distributed.
The Scottish Government believes money due to Scotland under the Shared Prosperity Fund should come to it “in line with existing well established arrangements”.
And Mr Lochhead insisted: “If this is not the case, Scotland’s communities risk being let down by badly informed UK Government spending decisions.”
In the letter to Mr Hall, he stated: “It is not possible for UK ministers to make well informed and sound decisions about spending in devolved areas in Scotland without consultation and agreement with Scottish ministers, to ensure coherence with existing spending plans, value for money and respect for responsibility and democratic accountability of Scottish ministers and the Scottish Parliament.”
Mr Lochhead stressed that “increased public funding for Scotland and Scottish stakeholders is always welcomed”.
But he also used his letter to make clear “funding would be better routed directly through the Scottish Government in line with devolved competence”.
He told ministers in London that Scottish ministers “remain beyond disappointed by the continued refusal of the UK Government to engage the Scottish Government in any meaningful way” about the development of UK Shared Prosperity Fund and other funds, including the Community Renewal Fund and the Levelling Up Fund.
Mr Lochhead added: “The level of engagement stands in sharp contrast to the close working relationship that the Scottish Government had with the European Commission on the development of the Structural Fund Programmes.”
He wants to meet UK Government ministers at the “earliest opportunity” to discuss these “pressing issues”.
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.”
A spokeswoman for the UK Government’s Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We have been clear that the £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund, the £220 million UK Community Renewal Fund and the £150 million Community Ownership Fund will be open to all areas in Scotland and will play a vital role in helping to support and regenerate communities.”