Governments demand talks with Treasury over spending in devolved nations

HM Treasury in London

Ministers for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have joined forces to demand an urgent meeting with Treasury bosses, as they accused the UK Government of bypassing the devolved governments.

The call came after talks between Scottish public finance minister Ivan McKee, and the finance ministers in Northern Ireland and Wales, Conor Murphy and Rebecca Evans.

In a joint statement, the trio sought to highlight their “shared concerns about the UK Government’s decision to bypass democratically agreed devolution arrangements” by funding projects in their nations under the Levelling Up scheme and Community Renewal Funds.

Mr McKee, Mr Murphy and Ms Evans insisted that money to replace cash from European Union (EU) funds should be “allocated in full” by their devolved Governments.

This, they insisted, was the best way to “address the needs and opportunities of the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, rather than through a new, separate layer of bureaucracy”.

The three ministers hit out and said: “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.”

They called for talks to take place before the UK Government further develops its Shared Prosperity Fund, with the devolved Governments saying that denying them “any meaningful input” to this “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”.

The ministers said: “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.

“We will jointly be seeking an urgent meeting with Treasury to raise these important matters.”

A UK Government spokeswoman 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.”