The Treasury is set to spend tens of millions of pounds directly on projects in Scotland under the auspices of several new funds, according to the Scotsman.
Whilst Rishi Sunak used his speech to the House of Commons yesterday to emphasise that he was delivering the largest increase in the block grant to the devolved authorities since 1998, the Government’s involvement in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland no longer stops there.
The paper reports that five Scottish projects have received investments totalling 20 per cent of the £150m Community Ownership Fund, whilst another eight will be backed with ten per cent of the £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund.
Even more projects, due to be supported under the £220m UK Community Renewal Fund – “an additional £220m to help local areas prepare for the launch of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund in 2022” – will be announced at a later date. The Shared Prosperity Fund is the Government’s replacement for EU structural funds, and has been at the centre of a bitter battle between London and the devolved administrations, who wanted to simply be given the cash directly.
However, this ideological dispute hasn’t prevented some SNP-led councils applying for money under the new system.
Meanwhile Simon Clarke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has defended the Budget from Welsh Labour that they aren’t receiving enough money. Speaking to Wales Online, he said that “Wales does very well out of the union and gets a higher level of capital spend than in the rest of the UK on average”.
Welsh ministers have attacked the Government for not providing £500-600m to make Wales coal tips safe, forcing the Cardiff Bay administration to find the money elsewhere. But as Clarke pointed out, the environment is a devolved responsibility.
Donaldson threatens early Stormont election over NI protocol
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, has warned that he might have to trigger an early election in Northern Ireland if the Government doesn’t make swift progress in resolving the dispute over the Irish Protocol.
According to the News Letter, he said this after pressing Boris Johnson in the Commons about whether or not the conditions for invoking Article 16, which allows either the UK or the EU to take unilateral safeguarding measures in the event of serious disruption, is being met. The Prime Minister concurred.
Such an election would be a high-stakes gamble for the DUP, whose polling position has suffered a dramatic slump as the backlash against the Protocol from Unionist voters has solidified. It has also failed so far to convinced either the Ulster Unionists or the hard-line Traditional Unionist Voice to agree to a so-called ‘unionist unity’ pact, the time-honoured means of bailing out the dominant capital-U Unionist party.
In the not-implausible event that the party returned fewer MLAs than Sinn Fein, reforms it backed under the St Andrews Agreement would see the republicans nominate the First Minister, even if more pro-UK MPs were returned overall. This in turn could see yet another collapse of Northern Ireland’s fragile and poorly-performing devolution settlement.
Labour councillor defects to Tories over stance on Indyref2
A councillor in Scotland has defected to the Conservatives, blaming her old party’s vacillating position on the constitution. Angela Doran-Timson, who was elected to West Lothian Council in 2017, says that only the Tories can stop the SNP holding another vote, the Herald reports.
However, Labour suggest the defection has more to do with the fact that she married Damian Doran-Timson, the council’s Conservative group leader, in December.