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Shared Prosperity Fund/Levelling-up Fund: Devolved Administrations

Volume 692: debated on Monday 19 April 2021

What recent discussions he has had with the devolved Administrations on the (a) levelling-up fund and (b) UK shared prosperity fund. (914297)

Along with the Secretary of State, I met the Minister for Trade, Innovation and Public Finance in the Scottish Government last month to discuss the levelling-up fund and the UK shared prosperity fund. We will continue to engage with the devolved Administrations and, importantly, with local authorities and communities in Scotland directly and wider public and private sector organisations to ensure that funding is used to best effect and to support citizens right across the country.

A joint statement by Ministers from the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments criticised the UK Government for using the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 to bypass devolved Administrations. Is it not the case that the UK Government intend to use levelling-up funding to shore up support for the Union and to undermine the very basis of devolution? If not, what are the Minister’s plans to devolve the funding within the framework of the devolution settlement?

I can confirm that we want to do everything possible to enhance and protect our precious Union. We will work with communities directly in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to deliver this important funding. We have already committed to providing capacity funding to local authorities in all the devolved Administrations, to get them started on preparing for these funds. We are excited about working with them, and they are excited about working with us on delivering these funds. We have had huge interest from councils and communities that want to work with us to deliver real and lasting change for their communities, and that is why there is such a high level of enthusiasm and engagement.

Sixty-six per cent. of Scots are deeply concerned about the way that the United Kingdom Internal Market Act seeks to undermine Scotland’s Parliament. Alongside the unilateral decision making of the UK Government regarding the shared prosperity fund and the levelling-up fund, despite what the Minister just said, this is being used to aggressively assert Unionism in Scotland and bypass Scotland’s Parliament. Meanwhile, 33 of the last 41 polls show majority support for independence in Scotland. Does the Minister think that this aggressive and assertive Unionism, trampling all over Scotland’s Parliament, is endearing the people of Scotland to the Union?

I urge the Scottish nationalist party to trust their local councils and local communities, which are so passionately engaging in this project and working with us, using the capacity funding we have committed to them to start this process. They will work with us on delivering these funds, which will tackle deprivation and enhance communities right across Scotland, and we look forward to working with them with determination and enthusiasm in the weeks, months and years ahead.