SNP 'pick a fight' over 'levelling up' as recruitment for head of programme in Scotland starts

The SNP have launched a fresh attack on Boris Johnson’s flagship ‘levelling up’ policy as the UK Government begins its recruitment search for someone to lead the programme in Scotland.

In response, the UK Government attacked the SNP for “recycling misleading figures”, adding that it was disappointing it wanted to “pick a fight” over the issue.

It comes as the Scotland Office began its search for the ‘head of city deals and levelling up’, according to a job advert posted on LinkedIn.

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Michael Gove spoke to COSLA about his plans for so-called 'levelling up' on Thursday.Michael Gove spoke to COSLA about his plans for so-called 'levelling up' on Thursday.
Michael Gove spoke to COSLA about his plans for so-called 'levelling up' on Thursday.
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The advert states the successful applicant will “ensure the continued successful delivery” of City Deals, and deliver the “UK Government’s levelling up ambitions and tackle local issues that hold people and places back”.

An SNP spokesperson criticised the levelling up plans as a “transparent Tory ploy” that was short-changing Scottish people.

They said: “Whoever is appointed to this role must make their overriding and immediate priority to demand the UK Government delivers fully on the funding it has short-changed Scotland, recently reported to be a massive £410 million, over the city and region deals.

“And that's before we count more than £1.3 billion in post-Brexit funding promised to Scotland by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove during the Brexit referendum campaign.”

They continued: “They said we would be given £1.5bn to spend on Scottish priorities when the UK left the EU and, so far, only £172m in so-called levelling up cash has been allocated.

"That's a massive £1.3bn less than that referendum promise, which is almost £530 per household in Scotland.

“This levelling up agenda has already been exposed as a transparent Tory ploy to channel taxpayers’ money into shoring up votes where their coats are increasingly on shoogly pegs.”

Hitting back at the claims, a UK Government source said: “The SNP has made these claims before and are recycling misleading figures on city and growth deals.

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"The numbers do not accurately reflect UK and Scottish government funding for the deals as they include Scottish Government funding for projects in devolved areas, outside of and separate to the growth deals.

“It’s disappointing the SNP want to pick a fight when the reality is that the UK and Scottish governments are collaborating constructively on the deals which are delivering for the people of Scotland.

“So far the UK Government has announced more than £1.75bn for regional initiatives and levelling up projects in Scotland. More money will be made available in subsequent rounds of levelling up funding as well as the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

"The Scottish Government is also benefitting from a record £41bn block grant over the next three years and received an extra £14.5bn to combat the pandemic.”

The new job also comes a year after the Cabinet Office was mocked by the SNP for a job advert in the UK Government’s ‘union directorate’, which said knowledge of Scottish politics was "desirable” rather than “essential”.

However, a UK Government spokesperson said candidates would need an “excellent understanding” of the issues around levelling up in Scotland.

They said: "Candidates will be required to have an excellent understanding of the opportunities and challenges of levelling up in Scotland.

“And it is essential they have proven skills to lead co-operation with the Scottish Government and local partners to deliver for communities – because that is what people expect.”

Want to hear more from The Scotsman's politics team? Check out the latest episode of our political podcast, The Steamie.

It's available wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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