The Scottish Government has signalled that it may have to go it alone to deliver lucrative growth deals for Moray, Argyll and the islands if Westminster does not commit soon.
Economy Secretary Keith Brown said in Holyrood yesterday that the SNP government “will have to take forward those matters itself” if it does not reach an agreement with Conservative ministers in London.
He was answering questions on a report by the Scottish Parliament’s local government committee on Monday which warned that areas not covered by City Region Deals could be “doubly disadvantaged” and treated like a “poor cousin”.
Moray, Argyll and the islands are among several areas of the country waiting for growth deals similar to those agreed a year ago for Aberdeen and Inverness.
During the exchanges, Mr Brown said: “What has happened to the Ayrshire growth deal? What has happened to Falkirk? What has happened to Moray? What has happened to the islands?
“Those other parts of Scotland also deserve recognition but… they have not yet had a city deal.”
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead urged the economy secretary to seek clarity from the UK Government on the progress of the Moray growth deal, which has been in the planning stages for more than a year but did not win anticipated support at the UK Budget in November.
Mr Brown said: “If we have an agreed understanding now or shortly on how to go forward from the current position of having agreed the existing city deals, we can make rapid progress with the two prospective city deals for Stirling and Clackmannanshire and the Tay cities, and with the other areas of Moray, Falkirk, Argyll and Bute and the borderlands.
“However, if we do not have an agreement, the Scottish Government will have to take forward those matters itself.
“We can get more out of it if we work together, so I am more than willing to continue talking to the UK Government about that and, as Richard Lochhead has urged me to do in the past, to continue talking to Moray Council on its specific proposals.”
A UK Government spokesman said: “There are other local authority areas keen to maximise the benefits of the growth deals programme and we will continue to work with the Scottish Government and local partners as proposals develop.
“We need to work together closely as we roll out the UK’s ambitious Industrial Strategy and deliver for the people of Scotland.”