Devolved powers join forces in demand for construction cash boost

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THE Scottish Government has been joined by the UK’s other devolved administrations in demanding Westminster’s backing for hundreds of millions of pounds of building and infrastructure projects.

Representatives of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations made the joint demand during a meeting with UK government ministers at the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) in London yesterday.

First Minister Alex Salmond called on the UK government to hand £400 million to the SNP administration for projects to boost Scotland’s economy and jobs during the Downing Street meeting attended by the Prime Minister.

The First Minister also used the meeting, which was also attended by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, to demand better air links between Scotland and England as well as repeating the SNP’s call for air passenger duty to be devolved to Holyrood. He said: “We recognise that action around investment is required now – not in three years’ time.

“That is why I have again urged the Chancellor to perform another budget U-turn by announcing an extra £5 billion in capital investment, which would allow us to provide an additional stimulus of more than £400m to support employment in Scotland now.

“If these projects go ahead now, they would provide a vital support to employment with every additional £100m of capital spending estimated to support around 1,400 jobs across the Scottish economy.”

Mr Salmond criticised what he insisted was the UK government’s failure to release the £400m, as the Welsh and Northern Irish ministers made similar demands in the joint declaration from the devolved administrations.

He said: “The Prime Minister asked that we provide a list of projects which were shovel-ready back in March and, despite providing the list, and repeated requests, no funding has yet been provided for these.

“The lack of action is completely unacceptable. That is why the devolved administrations today tabled a joint declaration at the Joint Ministerial Committee calling on the UK government to act now to stimulate the economy.”

Mr Salmond went on to talk about what he claimed was a “crisis in connectivity” in Scotland’s air passenger situation with the rest of the UK.

He suggested that figures from Edinburgh Castle showed that there might have been a 20 per cent fall in tourism to Scotland during the Olympics because people from abroad were put off from going through Heathrow.

A Downing Street statement said: “Ministers discussed the economic climate, including the global economic environment, and the public finances.”