A “HISTORIC” £524 million funding deal to breathe new life into North-East Scotland’s ailing economy became embroiled in recrimination last night as the Scottish and UK governments clashed over who was providing the most cash.
Nicola Sturgeon said that the SNP administration in Edinburgh was putting up the bulk of the money to rejuvenate the region, which has been hit hard by the crash in oil prices, and challenged Westminster to match her government’s input.
Prime Minister David Cameron insisted he is “100 per cent behind” the North Sea oil and gas sector as he visited the Granite City yesterday for talks with industry chiefs. He later announced a further £20m support package.
The First Minister was accused of “playing politics” with the issue of vital support for region, which is aimed at providing major new road, rail and construction projects as well as the creation of an oil and gas technology centre and an expansion of Aberdeen harbour.
The money is coming from a £250m “City Deal” for Aberdeen jointly funded by Holyrood and Westminster, with the Scottish Government separately pledging £254m for key infrastructure projects. The region has seen the loss of 65,000 oil and gas industry jobs over the past 18 months as the price of oil has fallen to about $30 per barrel.
Ms Sturgeon revealed during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood yesterday that Scotland’s infrastructure secretary Keith Brown had asked the UK government to match the extra funding.
She said: “I welcome the City Deal agreement which is seeing the Scottish and UK governments both commit £125m to support infrastructure and innovation in the North-east.
“However, I do know the investment Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire asked for was more significant than that. That is why we have taken the decision as the Scottish Government to confirm £254m of additional support for key infrastructure.
“The cabinet secretary for infrastructure did invite the UK government to match that additional commitment, and we will continue to discuss with them increasing their contribution.”
The SNP’s Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart went even further, accusing the Conservatives of “reneging on promises” to the region.
He said: “David Cameron’s government has over-promised and under-delivered in Scotland.
“While any new investment is welcome … the Prime Minister has simply not lived up to his promises of major funding for the area.”
But Scottish Secretary David Mundell hit back as he signed the City Deal in the Aberdeen yesterday along with local council leaders and oil and gas services industry magnate Sir Ian Wood.
Mr Mundell said: “It’s disappointing if there’s politicking going on. I happen to think this is a tremendous example of the Scottish Government, the UK government, the councils and businesses working together. It’s that positive message I want to bring.
“This is an opportunity – we should be continuing to work together to maximise that opportunity. I don’t want to get involved in party political politicking.”
Mr Cameron said: “What this [deal] shows is that the British government is 100 per cent behind this industry, behind Aberdeen, behind Scotland in making the best of the opportunities we have.”