THE UK Government has been accused of plotting an “assault on devolution” after announcing a new £150m community ownership fund.

The cash, £12.3m of which has been allocated to Scotland, will help local groups take over at-risk facilities, such as shops, pubs and post offices, according to the Scotland Office.

But the SNP believe the new scheme is part of a plan to strip Holyrood of powers.

They say the funding should be controlled by Nicola Sturgeon’s government, not Boris Johnson’s, under Barnett formula rules – and warned the programme could lead to cuts.

SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said: “I’m all for empowering communities to help secure local facilities but this is less about that than it is an insidious and barely-disguised Tory assault on devolution. It also begs questions about where this public money will end up considering the scandal of how Covid contracts have ended up in their donors’ hands.

“Basically, it’s the thin edge of the wedge that will lead to the Tories taking control of even more of Scotland’s money and the cuts that follow that.”

Under the new UK Government scheme, voluntary and community organisations will be invited to apply for up to £250,000 in matched funding to purchase local assets.

Up to £1m will be available to set up sports clubs or help to buy sports grounds that are at risk.

The SNP, however, argue the fund will help fulfill Tory ambitions to undermine devolved power.

It follows complaints about Downing Street’s Internal Market Act, which Holyrood ministers said constituted a “power grab” on powers which should have been returned to Edinburgh from Brussels after Brexit.

Similar complaints have been raised over UK Government funds designed to replace EU grants, such as the Shared Prosperity Fund.

The National: Holyrood ministers have warned of a UK Government 'power grab' Holyrood ministers have warned of a UK Government 'power grab'

READ MORE: Fears UK's post-Brexit EU replacement funds will fail remote Scots communities

Gibson said: “We know that, back in 1997 more than 74% of Scots voted for the creation of the Scottish Parliament and we know the Tories, who were against it then, have spent the last two decades trying to destroy it. Boris Johnson says devolution has been a 'disaster' and Jacob Rees-Mogg says he wants to 'undo' it – so we know their grand plan.

“They have stripped powers away from Holyrood through Brexit and now they are again riding roughshod over the devolution settlement by deciding how money is being spent north of the border and cutting out Scotland’s democratically-elected Government.”

He continued: “Rather than devolve resources to Scotland for us to decide our own priorities, money rightfully ours has been diverted into Levelling Up, Community Renewal and UK Shared Prosperity Funds.

“The fact is when the Tories had control of Scotland’s money before devolution they cut it to spend that money in their constituencies in the south east; and even now we see what Tory Westminster control of spending means for England’s councils – cuts not cash.”

The MSP added that the “only way to protect Scotland from the Tories” is independence.

The UK Government rejected the SNP allegations.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government told The National: “We have engaged with the devolved administrations, as well as local partners and stakeholders to ensure that the Community Ownership Fund delivers for communities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“The fund will be delivered on a UK wide basis, using powers granted by the UK Internal Market Act 2020, to support people and communities all across the country."

Tory ministers hope the new funding schemes will help strengthen the case for the Union, with Scots seeing the impact of direct funding from Westminster.

Under plans spearheaded by Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, UK-funded projects will be rubber stamped with British branding to hammer home the point.

Launching the Community Ownership Fund, the Tory MP said: “Alongside the Levelling Up, Community Renewal and UK Shared Prosperity Funds, the Community Ownership Fund is part of a crucial package of UK Government investment to support communities.

“The funds will play an important role as we build back better from the pandemic.

“I encourage communities across Scotland to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities the Community Ownership Fund provides.”