The UK Chancellor says it is “totally reasonable” to bypass Holyrood to directly invest in Scotland as he promised more cash is on its way.
Rishi Sunak committed £170 million in Wednesday’s budget to support eight projects across Scotland from a wider “levelling up” fund of £1.7 billion across the UK.
This includes £20 million to build a new market development on Union Street in Aberdeen and almost £20 million to go towards a redevelopment of Inverness Castle.
‘Proud of the union’
Asked if bypassing Holyrood to directly invest in communities in Scotland is the right way to go around “levelling-up” the country, Mr Sunak said it is “totally reasonable”.
He told BBC Good Morning Scotland: “Yesterday we announced the first allocations from the Levelling Up Fund and I’m delighted we could directly fund local communities and projects across Scotland with bids to improve local areas, regenerate town centres, that’s exactly what we said we would do.
“I’m really proud of the union and proud of what the UK Government does.
“It’s totally reasonable for the UK Government to directly support communities in Scotland and they will see more of that through the Levelling Up Fund.”
Scotland’s Finance Secretary Kate Forbes told the BBC she would “obviously welcome funding that goes to any communities in Scotland”.
However, she questioned whether the UK Government is “serious about levelling up” when it chose to snub proposals to create a carbon capture and storage facility in the north-east last week.
The UK Chancellor has come under fire for “failing to provide much needed clarity” on future carbon capture projects after the UK Government rejected the bid for the Acorn project in Aberdeenshire.
In response to whether the Scottish Government could use some of the funding it has received from the UK Government on such projects, Ms Forbes said “energy is reserved so powers are reserved”.
She added: “Obviously they have just chosen two other facilities, interestingly enough not in Scotland despite the one in Scotland being the most advanced.
“That to me is what real levelling-up would look like and while these projects are to be welcomed, they don’t compare to the loss of funding as a result of Brexit and they are no substitute for could be done in Scotland if the UK Government was serious about levelling up in Scotland.”
On whether levelling up cash would have been better spent on greener projects ahead of the COP26 climate conference, Mr Sunak said: “Last week the Prime Minister outlined the net zero strategy, which I think has widely been considered one of the most comprehensive approaches to net zero of any government.
“It’s backed by £30 million of investment. It will create new green jobs in Scotland, in areas like offshore wind and hydrogen so I’m excited about it and I think it will be very good for Scotland and very good for the UK.”