It is a “struggle” to understand how the Shared Prosperity Fund is a suitable replacement for EU funding, a Scottish Government minister has said.
Richard Lochhead accused the UK Government of reneging on its promises during a parliamentary debate on Wednesday.
Mr Lochhead said two “key promises” – a replacement to EU funding, and respect towards devolution post-Brexit – had been broken by Westminster.
He told MSPs: “The UK Government is offering Scotland £212 million over a three-year period – way below our expectations, and way below matching EU funding.
“The Scottish Government calculates that £183 million per year was required to replace EU funding.
“Multiplying that over the same three-year SPF period, Scotland should, of course, receive at least £549 million.”
He said the numbers do not add up, adding: “Levelling up, it seems, to the UK Government means losing out for all of Scotland.”
Mr Lochhead suggested the plans were an “aggressive move by the UK Government to intervene in devolved areas”, and said Westminster was “acting like this Parliament simply doesn’t exist”.
“We’re losing out financially, and we’re losing out in terms of our democratic autonomy as well,” he added.
Scottish Tory MSP, Liz Smith, she “did not understand why the SNP is continuing to moan about the Shared Prosperity Fund” when it is designed to address certain criticisms the party has held over economic policy from the UK Government.
But Paul Sweeney called the UK Shared Prosperity Fund “miserly” in comparison to the EU funds it replaces.
The Labour MSP referenced the Treasury Select Committee, chaired by Tory MP Mel Stride, which stated the fund is 40% less than the EU funds it is replacing.
Mr Sweeney said: “The UK Government should immediately increase the value of the fund to at least the level provided by the EU Structural and Investment Funds because we are in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, a climate crisis and a productivity crisis.
“Communities across the country are truly struggling.”
He also urged the Scottish and UK Governments to put politics aside and work collaboratively on the funding scheme.
Conservative MSP, Maurice Golden, said the Scottish Government had put up a “baseless opposition” to the Shared Prosperity Fund, as funding allocation will increase in the coming years once Scotland stops receiving EU funding.
He said the motion “fails to recognise that Scotland is still receiving legacy EU funding”.
“As this tapers off, the UK funding will increase to replace this and by 2025 the UKSPF will fully match Scotland’s EU Structural Funds in real terms,” he said.
Mr Golden also dismissed criticisms that the funding goes against devolution.
Communities, he said, would take “solace” in knowing the funding will bypass the Scottish Government’s “woeful” public spending and be handed directly to local authorities.
Scottish Secretary, Alister Jack, said: “Contrary to Scottish Government claims, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) will match EU structural funding.
“The UKSPF will also get rid of the EU bureaucracy which has previously hampered getting funds into communities. By delivering UKSPF directly into local areas, the UK Government will help deliver local priorities.”
A UK Government source said: “The SNP are trying to turn this into a phoney row about numbers.
“They simply cannot bring themselves to welcome a scheme that improves on previous EU funding arrangements directed from Brussels, and which will bring huge benefits to the North East (of Scotland) and right across Scotland.”