THE UK Government is set to bypass the Scottish Parliament and give funding directly to seven Scottish councils in the latest devolution snub.

Ahead of the Tory party conference in Manchester this weekend, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a £1.1 billion fund that will be divided up amongst 55 different towns across the UK.

Each town will be given £20 million in cash over 10 years, according to the announcement. 

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross rejected the suggestion that the move was a devolution snub during a TV interview and said he was “delighted” by the announcement.

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Meanwhile, the Scottish Government said they were "disappointed" they had not been consulted and said the cash should have been provided through the Barnett Formula "in the normal manner". 

The UK Government have previously been criticised by Scottish ministers for using "Levelling Up" announcements to bypass Holyrood by funding projects in devolved areas. 

One of the towns benefitting from the fund, Elgin, is in Ross’s Moray constituency.

Greenock, Inverclyde Council, Irvine, North Ayrshire, Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire, Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, and Dumfries, Dumfries and Galloway, were also named as towns who will receive funding.

Inverclyde, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire are Labour-run local authorities, while Dumfries and Galloway and Moray are Tory-run. Meanwhile, North Ayrshire and East Ayrshire are both led by the SNP.

On BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show, Ross (below) was asked if the funding announcement was another devolution snub.

The National:

“Devolution is about Scotland’s two governments delivering for the area,” he said, adding he was delighted by the funding pledge.

“That’s going to be crucially important for councils such as Moray council and all these local authorities and deliver real priorities for local people in these communities,” he added.

“So I’m very happy to see it, delighted to see such a big investment from the UK Government going into these Scottish towns on the first day of the Conservative Party conference here in Manchester.”

BBC journalist Martin Geissler pointed out that £20m over a decade would “barely cover street cleaning bills” and suggested it was a move to grab headlines and stoke a “constitutional row” with the SNP.

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“Well if you can find any council in Scotland that doesn’t want £20m additional funding over the next 10 years then I’d be very surprised,” Ross replied.

He added that he had spoken to Moray council leader, and Scottish Tory councillor, Kathleen Robertson who is “absolutely delighted in this investment in Elgin”.

“It also means that the council can look at spending some of their current funds elsewhere across Moray and I’m sure that will be replicated across the six other local authority areas in Scotland who have benefitted from this funding,” Ross said.

“It really is about getting to the heart of these issues.

The National: Scottish Parliament

“I welcome this, but I want the Scottish Government to work with the UK Government and local authorities to make sure this money is well spent.”

Asked why the Tory Government wouldn’t first give the money to Holyrood, as is the normal procedure under devolution, Ross said: “It’s nothing to do with how it's supposed to be.

“This is 55 local authorities across the United Kingdom are getting an additional £1.1 billion pounds cash injection from the UK Government and that's going directly to local authorities here in Scotland because they know best how to spend the money in their local area.

“I would hope that the Scottish Government could understand, respect that and work with the UK Government and local partners to see this money really make a real difference.”

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It comes as the Tory party conference kicked off in Manchester, expected to be the last one before the next General Election.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “While the Scottish Government welcomes all extra funding for Scotland, it would be much better if provided to the Scottish Government via the Barnett Formula in the normal manner.

“It is extremely disappointing that we have not been consulted on how the investment could be prioritised to complement our ongoing work, and we are unclear on how the priority locations have been identified.

"We will nevertheless work with the UK Government and local authorities to ensure the impact of this investment can be properly realised."

The National: Michael Gove

As the plans were announced, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove (above) said: “We know that in our towns the values of hard work and solidarity, common sense and common purpose, endeavour and quiet patriotism have endured across generations. But for too long, too many of our great British towns have been overlooked and undervalued.

“We are putting this right. This will empower communities in every part of the UK to take back control of their future, taking long-term decisions in the interests of local people.

“It will mean more jobs, more opportunities and a brighter future for our towns and the people who live and work in them.”

A “towns taskforce” will reportedly report to Sunak and Gove.

Four of the towns named are in Wales, while the remaining 42 towns are in England, and largely the north.