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Stronger Towns Fund: Scottish Towns

Volume 662: debated on Monday 17 June 2019

5. What plans the Government have to ensure that Scottish towns benefit from the stronger towns fund. (911356)

I am sure my hon. Friend is aware that the Government recently announced the stronger towns fund, which is part of a commitment to create growth and prosperity in all parts of our United Kingdom.

When the stronger towns fund statement was made at the beginning of March, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said he would set out details on additional funding for Scotland and how it will benefit towns in Scotland. When will my constituents in Stirling see those details, and when will the fund be open for applications from Scotland?

My hon. Friend’s constituents are, of course, already benefiting from £45 million through the Stirling and Clackmannanshire city region deal. We are working to ensure that the benefit of the stronger towns fund can be felt in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We are working with the devolved Administrations on the best way to achieve that, and we will release further details in due course.

We are still waiting for important details of the stronger towns fund. Whether it be in Scotland, England or Wales—all over the country—our towns have seen lower job growth than in our cities and have often been harder hit by austerity. We have lost sports centres, libraries, community centres and children’s centres, as services have been shrunk back by austerity into the cities. We urgently need the details of the fund, because we need investment in jobs and public services in our towns.

I am not sure I agree with the right hon. Lady that austerity is the reason for services being shrunk back into the cities. Successive Governments have failed to concentrate on creating growth in our towns across the United Kingdom, which is why we are working on the prospectus for the stronger towns fund. I hope to see exciting bids come forward, not least from her constituency, to see how we, as a Government, can back our northern towns and our towns elsewhere in England.

It speaks volumes that even the Scottish Tories are disappointed by the stronger towns fund, which represents a drop in the ocean compared with the estimated loss of €13 billion of European regional development fund money that towns, villages, cities and high streets will lose under the Tories’ chaotic Brexit plans. Can the Minister guarantee that not a single penny will be lost to Scotland as a result of this chaos?

I am not sure whether the hon. Lady has some sort of special insight. She seems to think that ERDF funding has already been lost. It is, of course, correct that the Government consult widely, not least with the devolved Administrations, on the future of the UK shared prosperity fund. It is absolutely right that we focus on delivering growth in every part of our United Kingdom, including Scotland.

It is undeniable that money we would have got through ERDF funding will be lost on leaving the European Union, and this Government have no plans and no guarantees to replace that money. What is more, this Tory Government are intent on stringing Scotland along with promises of money—promises that, by their very nature, undermine the principles of devolution. Does the Minister not understand that, or does he just not care? He needs to show that he respects the Scotland Act 1998. If not, we move on.

That is not correct. If the hon. Lady has details, perhaps she will let me have them. We have been absolutely clear that we will respect all the devolution settlement as we move forward with the UK shared prosperity fund. But she does not have to wait, as we have already had 500 face-to-face engagements with stakeholders. I have engaged with all of England’s metro mayors, and we continue to have discussions with the devolved Administrations. I would have thought that, as an SNP Member of Parliament, she had been told that by her colleagues up in Scotland.