Boris Johnson sets out levelling up agenda in speech
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The Chancellor is expected to pledge cash for major infrastructure projects north of the border at the spending review next week from the £4.8billion Levelling Up Fund. Projects will be issued through the UK Government’s new fund direct to Scottish councils, bypassing the Edinburgh Government.
The SNP-led Scottish government has opposed direct investment by the UK Government in Scottish infrastructure projects because transport is devolved to Holyrood and have refused to engage in the scheme.
But defending the scheme, Michael Gove who has been given the title of Levelling Up Secretary by Boris Johnson, said: “It is practical cooperation.
“I think it would be odd if the SNP put ideology ahead of cooperation.”
He made clear:“Levelling up is intended to ensure that we make opportunity more equal across the United Kingdom.
“Of course we respect the devolution settlement – it works, and we want to strengthen it.
“It’s also the case alongside that, that people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have two governments, and they need to see both governments serving them appropriately.”
Mr Gove stressed the UK Government received bids from local councils across Scotland for funding from the new cash pot.
The Minister continued: “Do we really think that a citizen in Stranraer, Whithorn or Lockerbie is going to say ‘oh well done, thank you so much – Scotland is stronger now that we’ve kept this road in its current conditions.
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“That seems to me to be a very good thing. It’s not bypassing the Devolution Settlement, it’s augmenting it.”
Mr Gove made the point that UK Government ministers wanted to work “with the SNP led administration to ensure “it uses the powers that it has more energetically and more effectively”.
He added: “Devolution can work – the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament can serve the Scottish people better. It’s their priorities but we want to help them to deliver them.”
The Cabinet Office minister also admitted that “it doesn’t matter” if the SNP take credit for the UK Government’s Levelling Up agenda.
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Mr Gove added: “I am more than happy for the Scottish Government ministers to take the credit for good things that happen in Scotland.
“I just want good things to happen in Scotland.
“If Kate Forbes [Scotland’s Finance Secretary] gets the credit for investment in Scotland, great.
“That’s fine by me. My job is to make sure that the UK Government works for everyone.”
The Scottish Government has warned it is “beyond disappointed” by the stance taken by UK ministers.
An SNP spokeswoman added: “Fundamentally, it’s clear that Westminster control means cuts not cash for the people of Scotland.
“Westminster Tories have a long history of playing silly political games with Scotland’s money.
“From their latest betrayal of investment in Aberdeenshire’s carbon capture scheme to shortchanging Scotland by millions in our city deals.”
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