SNP South Scotland MSP Emma Harper has written to the UK Government’s Scottish Secretary to seek clarity over the Levelling Up Fund and its impact on the powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament and on the barriers it creates to elected members of the Scottish Parliament to suggesting spending projects.
According to the UK Government website, the Levelling Up Fund is a £4.8 billion fund which aims to invest in infrastructure to improve everyday life, support town centre and high street regeneration and cultural and heritage assets, across all parts of the United Kingdom and it has a number of priority, level 1, local authority areas including Dumfries and Galloway, the Scottish Borders and South and East Ayrshire.
However, the South Scotland MSP is concerned that this fund impacts on the powers of the Scottish Parliament and of Scottish local authorities and on how communities will be engaged with to ensure that any investment is through agreement. Ms Harper has written to the Scottish Secretary with four very clear questions:
• What criteria is used to determine the priority level assigned to each UK local authority given that Level 1, 2 and 3 are assigned?
• I understand that Members of the UK Parliament can make recommendations to the UK Government on projects they would like to be funded from the Levelling Up Fund. Can you confirm whether this is the case, and why Members of the Scottish Parliament cannot make recommendations on project funding for Scottish local authority areas?
• Can you confirm whether there will be a process of community consultation before assigning funding to any particular project?
• Has the UK Government carried out an assessment of whether the Levelling Up Fund encroaches on any areas of policy which are devolved to the Scottish Parliament under the Scotland Act?
Commenting, Ms Harper said:
“The UK Government have a poor track record when it comes to respecting the powers of our Scottish Parliament and indeed the wishes of the people of Scotland.
“The Levelling Up Fund aims to act on a number of areas of policy which are devolved to our Parliament in Scotland through the Scotland Act. Indeed, the Fund also impacts on the powers of local authorities and is very unclear on how funding and priority levels are assigned. Another issue with the Fund is that it is only MPs who can make recommendations to the UK Government for funding projects across the priority areas, meaning democratically elected MSPs have no way of supporting local community projects through the fund on matters we are elected to represent.
“I have written to the Secretary of State for Scotland with my concerns over the Levelling Up Fund and to seek clarity over a number of areas including the criteria for assigning priority to local authorities and over whether MSPs elected in Scotland will be able to make recommendations on funding for projects across our regions and constituencies. I have also asked the Secretary of State whether an assessment has been carried out over whether the Fund has been assessed against the Scotland Act to see what impact it has on the powers of the Scottish Parliament.”