In a joint statement, Scottish Government trade minister Ivan McKee, Northern Ireland’s finance minister Conor Murphy and Welsh finance minister Rebecca Evans criticised the UK Government for using powers under the new Internal Market Bill to “bypass us completely”.
The UK Government has been accused of using new powers implemented since Brexit to take control of money that would otherwise have been passed to devolved nations.
Some accuse the UK of using money planned for new funds aimed at ‘levelling up’ parts of the UK as an attempt to shore up support for the union through direct investment into infrastructure projects.
However, much of this funding was previously allocated to devolved nations directly, allowing for local decision making on how to spend the money, with Ms Evans labelling the new Levelling Up Fund an “assault on devolution”.
The three ministers expressed their “shared concerns” around the planned funds and the decision to “bypass democratically agreed devolution arrangements” to deliver the Levelling Up and Community Renewal Funds.
They add they believe the money should be allocated “in full” through the devolved nations rather than through a “new, separate layer of bureaucracy”.
The statement continues: “The UK Government ignored the devolved governments’ efforts and requests to input to the development process for these funds for almost three years and is now using powers under the UK Internal Market Act to bypass us completely.
"It is ignoring our respective devolution arrangements, delivering funding to meet Whitehall’s priorities rather than those of the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“This must be addressed before further policy development takes place on the Shared Prosperity Fund. Denying us any meaningful input harms the effectiveness of these funds, will duplicate resources and risks value for money and the achievement of better, fairer outcomes which our communities and people deserve."
Accusing the UK Government of betraying promises made during the EU referendum that powers would be fully devolved to the three devolved nations, the ministers call for a “clear plan” of how the Shared Prosperity Fund that replaces European Commission development and social fund grants will be implemented.
The statement adds: “The support announced through these funds is not new money. This funding has sat with our respective governments since powers in this area were devolved. Now, bidding for an unidentified share of a UK pot through a competitive process provides no guarantee of success.
"With decisions being made entirely by the UK Government, this falls far short of commitments made during the EU referendum for all these powers to be fully devolved after EU exit.
“Going forward, we need more than simply a commitment from UK ministers that the devolved governments will be engaged in the development of the Shared Prosperity Fund.
"We need a clear plan of how and when this will happen and consultation and input into the proposed role of the devolved governments, so that the most vulnerable in our societies are protected and jobs and prosperity are achieved in a way that is fairer, more inclusive and sustainable for all our citizens.”
A spokesperson for the UK Government said: "Scotland has two governments, and it is absolutely right that the UK Government invests directly in Scotland. We will be working with local authorities, who know their communities well.
"People in Scotland can expect significant direct UK Government investment in their communities in the coming months and years.”