The UK Tory Government has been criticised for its plans to replace the €1 billion European Structural and Investment Funds, currently distributed by the Scottish Government, with a UK Government-controlled 'UK Shared Prosperity Fund' which will merely “engage” with devolved administrations after Brexit.
The European Structural and Investment Funds, being the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF), help a wide range of projects including initiatives to address poverty, improve infrastructure and the environment and tackle pollution across Scotland.
The announcement, made by UK Tory Government Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government James Brokenshire MP, has been heavily criticised by third sector organisations and the SNP, as new evidence of a Tory power grab on Scotland.
Anna Fowlie, Chief Executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), commented:
“The SCVO has been consistent in our position that powers returning to the UK from the EU should be devolved so that Scotland’s needs can be considered and reflected in decision-making.
“The UK Parliament has promised engagement with devolved administrations on these matters before but their track record suggests they are more interested in England’s priorities and not at all concerned with those of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.”
Kenneth Gibson MSP said:
“European Structural Funding has helped to create employment, build roads and infrastructure and help tackle unemployment in every corner of Scotland – particularly in some of our most remote communities.
“To replace this with a system administered entirely by Westminster, instead of here in Scotland, would be completely unacceptable.
“Given their recent form in seeking to tear up the devolution settlement, there would be little reason to trust the Tories.”
Maggie Lennon, director of the Bridges Programmes in Glasgow which supports refugees and asylum seekers, added:
”Scotland should not merely be consulted on this new fund – Scotland should be managing it.
“Scotland will get a smaller share, is not a priority for Westminster, and jobs and services for some of our most vulnerable people and regions will be at risk.”
The European Structural and Investment Funds scheme is currently handled by Scottish ministers. Money is allocated on a six year basis with the 2014 to 2020 funds for Scotland worth €476 million and €465m respectively. Projects to restore mountain paths, help vulnerable BME women and support children from low income families are among initiatives which have received funds.