SNP ministers should devolve more powers from Holyrood to councils, says Michael Gove

SNP ministers should devolve more powers from Holyrood to councils, Michael Gove has suggested.

He made the comments as he outlined plans to give cash directly to Scotland’s local authorities as part of moves to replace European Union funding in the wake of Brexit.

The Levelling Up Secretary set out his intention for money from the UK’s new Shared Prosperity Fund to be “directly allocated” to councils.

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Secretary of State Michael Gove. Picture: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
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Addressing the virtual conference of Cosla, the body that represents Scotland’s councils, Mr Gove said new powers over income tax and welfare had passed from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament, but suggested more could be done to "empower local communities".

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the conference devolving more powers to councils was a Scottish Government ambition.

Cosla president Alison Evison warned of "increasing centralisation of services and national policy direction" in her speech to the conference.

Mr Gove said: “We are replacing the old EU structural funds with our new £2.6 billion UK Shared Prosperity Fund

“That money will go straight to local councils in Scotland, so that they can invest in local priorities, improve communities and place, people and skills and supporting local business.”

He quoted the cross-party Smith Commission on further devolution in 2014, which said: "There is a strong desire to see the principle of devolution extended further, with the transfer of powers from Holyrood to local communities."

Mr Gove told the conference: "Almost eight years on, since the Smith Commission, new powers over income tax, welfare, and the Crown Estate have passed from Westminster to Holyrood.

"But I wonder if more might be done to empower local communities from Holyrood in the way Lord Smith suggested.

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"Surely a stronger Aberdeen, a more wholly empowered Glasgow and a devolution deal for Dundee cannot be bad things?”

In her speech, Ms Sturgeon said: "Our ambition – one which I know is shared by Cosla – is to devolve more powers to local councils and local levels of democratic decision-making."

She added: "I know that Cosla is ambitious for devolution to go further – and I am hopeful that the local governance review will lead to significant changes."

Elsewhere, Mr Gove told a Holyrood committee that Scotland has poorer educational data than England, making it difficult to assess the success or otherwise of the curriculum.

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