The leader of the House of Commons claims Aberdeen City Council has opted to open talks with UK Ministers about Westminster directly funding the city in a bid to avoid the “failures of the SNP”.
The UK Government has launched proposals to deal with Scottish councils in an attempt to prove the benefits of the union amid the backdrop of consistent polling in support for independence.
Aberdeen City Council bosses agreed this week to open talks with UK ministers about the local authority receiving funding from Westminster in a move described as an “attack on the devolution settlement”.
The cash would not replace the core funding settlement from the Scottish Government but would see the local authority bypass Scottish ministers to access funding.
Jacob Rees-Mogg told the House of Commons that Aberdeen “wants to separate from Edinburgh to avoid the machinations and failures of the SNP – the failures in education, the failures in policing and the failures in the health service in Scotland”.
However, Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn said the move gives another “clear sign” that the UK Government is trying to “pull the drawbridge up on devolution and reduce the role of the Scottish Parliament”.
Mr Rees-Mogg, who is leader of the House of Commons, said: “What is Aberdeen saying? ‘Let’s cut out this failed administration run by the SNP – why don’t we go directly to London to have our settlement done with London?'”
“Is it not fascinating that the failures of the left-wing SNP are making councils in Scotland try to escape from its auspices and authority?
“The strength of the United Kingdom has provided £8.2 billion to keep the Scottish economy going.
“Together as one country, one group of taxpayers have helped every part of the country with a depth, a strength, a thoroughness that would not be possible if they were separated.”
‘SNP assault on local government’
Councillor Jenny Laing, co-leader of Aberdeen City Council, accused the SNP of launching an “assault” on local government which is “impacting severely on local government’s ability to fulfil its obligations”.
She said: “As our motion made clear, Aberdeen City Council fully accepts that devolution is the settled will of the Scottish people.
“The once-in-a-generation 2014 independence referendum made it clear that Scotland also supported devolution.
“However, devolution has also seen an SNP assault on local government where SNP austerity is impacting severely on local government’s ability to fulfil its obligations to citizens.”
The Aberdeen Labour leader said Mr Rees-Mogg was “right to point out the failures of the SNP and the strength of the UK”.
Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn said: “Jacob Rees-Mogg and Douglas Lumsden would perhaps be the most hapless political partnership since Jenny Laing and Douglas Lumsden.
“On a serious note, this is just another clear sign that the UK Government are trying to pull the drawbridge up on devolution and reduce the role of the Scottish Parliament.
“That’s something that the people of Aberdeen will not support and the Tories running our council should be careful what they wish for given the UK Government have cut council budgets in England by some 80%.”
‘Local government is fully devolved’
The UK Government has identified a number of initiatives including the EU funding replacement, the Shared Prosperity Fund, which was specifically mentioned in Mr Lumsden’s motion to council.
Other initiatives suggested by the UK Government for this new partnership with councils include the Union Connectivity Review, which aims to improve transport links between different parts of the UK and the Freeports programme.
A UK Government source previously branded claims the deal undermines devolution as “nonsense”, adding it amounted to “real devolution”.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Local government is fully devolved and as such is the responsibility of the Scottish Government.
“There is no question, therefore, of any Scottish local authority being funded directly by the UK Government.”