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Levelling-up Fund

Volume 728: debated on Wednesday 22 February 2023

4. What recent assessment he has made with Cabinet colleagues of the effectiveness of levelling-up funding in Scotland. (903686)

The Government are tackling geographic inequalities across the UK through their ambitious levelling-up agenda. We are investing almost £2.3 billion in levelling up across all parts of Scotland. Without the leadership of the UK Government, there would be no long-term investment in the Scotland-wide city region and growth deals, which are putting investment in the hands of local leaders, nor would there be investment in transformational local projects, such as a new ferry for Fair Isle or the restoration of Kilmarnock’s historic Palace Theatre, through the levelling-up fund.

The all-party parliamentary group on new towns, which I chair, has completed a report on the specific infrastructure needs of new towns such as my constituency of East Kilbride, which was built after the second world war. Many specific infrastructure and investment needs have been established, so will the Minister encourage new towns in Scotland, such as my constituency, to apply for levelling-up funding to address those important needs?

Yes, is the short answer. The Government’s levelling-up agenda is benefiting communities right across the UK, including new towns. It allows communities to address local needs in order to create jobs and boost economic growth. For example, the new town of Cumbernauld in North Lanarkshire successfully secured over £9 million in the first round of the levelling-up fund recently, which will enable transformational developments of the town centre. I would be very happy to meet the hon. Lady’s group to discuss how we might support new town investment.

It has been a momentous week in Scottish politics, and I am sure the whole House will want to wish Nicola Sturgeon all the best in whatever she does next in politics. I also pass our deepest sympathies on to everyone at Hibernian football club, who lost their owner, Ron Gordon, suddenly yesterday.

According to the Together Through This Crisis initiative, which is a coalition of charities, almost a quarter of people across the country regularly run out of money for essentials. At the same time, BP and Shell have made more than £1 billion a week in profits, while avoiding a proper windfall tax because of the loopholes the Prime Minister created in his scheme. Will the Minister listen to those charities, recognise the impact the cost of living crisis is having on working people and put in place a proper windfall tax to help them?

As the hon. Gentleman well knows, the cost of living support provided by the Government is worth over £26 billion in 2023-24. As a compassionate Government, we have taken appropriate steps to support the most vulnerable households across the UK through additional cost of living payments, including £900 for households on means-tested benefits, £300 for pensioner households and £150 for disabled people. When it comes to taxing energy companies, the Government have raised the rate of tax on companies such as BP and Shell to 75%, which we consider fair, given the current circumstances.

The Minister says he runs a compassionate Government. He should tell that to the parents who are going without food to feed their children. Scots are being hit hard by the cost of living crisis, which has been made worse by the state of Scottish public services. The NHS is on its knees while the Cabinet Secretary for Health is focusing on other things and Scottish local government is having its funding decimated again by the Finance Secretary, who is seemingly intent on offending every minority group in Scotland. Does the Minister agree that, in the midst of such a serious crisis, it is frankly absurd that failed Scottish Ministers are fighting among themselves for the top job, when too many Scots are worrying about how to pay their bills?

It does seem that the SNP has decided to provide the country with compelling drama now that “Happy Valley” has ended. However, there is a serious point here. While the SNP indulges in the most savage infighting since Labour’s Blair-Brown civil war, Scotland is crying out for attention to be given to things that really matter: the economy, the health service and the education system. The people’s priorities are the priorities of the United Kingdom Government. We can only hope that the new First Minister will move away from the SNP’s obsession with independence and focus on the things that really matter to the people of Scotland.