UK Government ministers are “parking their tanks” on areas of devolved competence, MSPs have been told.
Scottish trade minister Ivan McKee railed against the Shared Prosperity Fund, a Westminster initiative to replace structural funds from the EU that will allow UK ministers to spend money on devolved areas.
He claimed the UK Government is engaged in an “assault” on devolution.
Speaking to the Finance and Constitution Committee at Holyrood, Mr McKee added: “We’re seeing the UK Government effectively parking their tanks on big areas of devolved competence through this process.”
It was confirmed last week that cash from the fund will be allocated centrally from Westminster, something Mr McKee described as “disappointing”.
In a letter to Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, UK Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay said: “The UK Shared Prosperity Fund will help to level up and create opportunity across the UK in places most in need.
“It will operate UK-wide, using the new financial assistance powers in the UK Internal Market Act.
“We will ramp up funding so that total domestic UK-wide funding will at least match EU receipts on average reaching around £1.5 billion a year.”
Mr McKee told the committee: “This is hugely disappointing and to be frank shows no respect for devolution, it shows no consideration of the distinct needs of the people and places in Scotland.”
The Scottish Government protested against the passage of the Internal Market Act at Westminster, claiming it would be a “power grab” on the devolved administrations.
Mr McKee said: “What we warned of with that Act has come to pass with alarming speed.”
He referred to the fund as another “power grab”, adding it “disrespects the needs and interests of Scotland, the Scottish Government’s powers and responsibilities, and ignores the fact that we have successfully delivered the previous EU structural funds since devolution in partnership with local authorities, other agencies and third sector bodies, making a huge difference to communities and individuals across the country.”
He went on to say he has requested a meeting on 10 occasions over the past few years with UK ministers for clarity on the fund, but was only able to do so in November.