Anger as Scotland funding left out of levelling up plans

THE levelling up policy, or rather, slogan, finally arrived in slightly extended form as a White Paper this week, but offered little for Scottish economic growth coming our of the pandemic.

This comes as key tenets of the UK Government’s leaky flagship post-Brexit plan seek to erode devolved powers.

We got the promise of more mayors for English regions, and transport that would aspire to be as good as London’s.

However, concerns raised by Kate Forbes, Scottish finance secretary, over future funding in areas including schools, hospitals and transport infrastructure, have yet to be addressed and there was nothing about the expected replacement for EU structural funding, two years after Brexit.

Ms Forbes said in a BBC interview that we have already seen “the UK Government making spending decisions in areas that had previously been devolved in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, so they are using the Internal Markets Act to completely rewrite how funding is distributed, undermining devolution, rolling back on commitments”.


At a time when the targeted build-back pound will be critical, it is imperative that Scotland is not prevented from driving forward its own economy as early as possible.

As was shown during the pandemic, greater devolved powers could be beneficial for Scottish businesses. Levelling up does offer an opportunity, as long as it is not another policy that claims to be doing one thing, yet, actually is something very different.

In response to the White Paper, the centre-right, Thatcher-founded Centre for Policy Studies think tank urged ministers to do more to put business to the fore, and questioned the existing trajectory.

Its director, Robert Colvile, said that “there is a further mission, which sits above them all, which is to ensure that the private sector can create the high-productivity jobs on which levelling up will depend … the current agenda of temporary investment incentives and permanent tax rises will certainly not help deliver that”.

The subject is dissected by business editor Ian McConnell in his Called to Account column this week.

“There is much which really grates in the Conservative Government’s ‘levelling up’ talk – the volume of which has been ramped up again this week by the Johnson administration to reach an ear-piercing crescendo,” he writes.

The energy crisis was broached by Chancellor Rishi Sunak offering consumers a £200 repayable discount, AKA a loan, over five years, on energy bills, while calls for a windfall tax were rejected by one energy company, which said it would choke investment in the North Sea and exacerbate the problem of gas price volatility.

Also this week, the latest news about the smart meter scheme introduced by the UK Government to support the net zero drive raised fresh questions about “what has long looked like an expensive gift that keeps on giving for international investors”, says business correspondent Mark Williamson.

Business confidence in Scotland rebounded in January as the easing of Omicron-related restrictions boosted morale, reveals business correspondent Kristy Dorsey.

It comes as deputy business editor Scott Wright asks if the great return to the office is now upon us as thousands of people begin to resume business in towns and cities after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon paved the way for hybrid working.

Latest indicators at a glance from the Office of National Statistics:

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