ON Thursday, the UK Government announced a second round of Levelling Up Fund awards. A number of council areas and priorities benefited – that is welcome.

But Levelling Up has now become yet another example of Westminster trampling over devolved responsibilities.

This funding should be devolved – just as we were promised that EU funding would be devolved after Brexit – through the Barnett formula which allocates public spending in devolved areas.

That would allow Scottish ministers and local authorities to make independent decisions about its use.

Westminster ministers have no place making top-down decisions about funding priorities in devolved areas. They think people in Scotland won’t care because it’s extra money, but people care passionately about their Parliament and where power lies.

What’s worse is that Levelling Up means Scotland is losing out. The Westminster Government claims that reducing inequality is an aim of the Levelling Up Fund, yet some of the most deprived Scottish constituencies with some of the most complex economic needs missed out of this funding round completely.

Scotland has many remote, rural and sparsely populated regions – that too is being ignored.

And 12 Scottish local authorities have not had a single penny from £3.8 billion allocated in the first and second rounds.

Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit wheeze has turned into little more than a dash for cash for local projects with decisions being made far from people and places.

Westminster is encroaching on devolved responsibilities and failing to recognise the expertise of the Scottish Government in devolved matters.

It is taking a top-down approach to what should very much be a bottom-up agenda. We have had decades of attempts to address poverty by doing things to communities, of trying to remove barriers and fix things from the outside in. All of them failed too.

Even Rishi Sunak’s own colleagues recognise this. Last week, West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street said that he “cannot understand why the levelling up funding money was not devolved for local decision makers” and lambasted “Whitehall’s bidding and begging bowl culture”.

It is in stark contrast to our efforts to transform the economy at a local level, support families and maintain public services during this UK Government-made cost of living crisis.

We are working with local businesses and local authorities to help to revitalise town centres and recover from the pandemic. Last week, we announced £27 million in funding for 23 community-based projects to tackle poverty and grow the economy locally, creating and supporting over 700 jobs, more than 500 construction jobs and hundreds of training places.

And we are supporting Scotland’s islands to create high-quality green jobs and new ways of working through £50m investment in the Islands Growth Deal.

We want Scotland to be fairer, greener and more prosperous, working with and listening to communities, industry, people and local authorities to achieve shared aims – to reduce child poverty, tackle climate change, and help people cope with the cost of living crisis.

Much was promised by the Westminster government post-Brexit – powers would come back to Scotland, funding would be at least matched, and schemes would be simpler, streamlined and transparent.

The Levelling-Up Fund is delivering the opposite.

While I am disappointed at this, I am not surprised. I and Ministerial colleagues have repeatedly warned this would happen, and have tried repeatedly to have Scotland’s devolved settlement respected, to have more money come into Scotland so that where and how it is spent is determined by people in Scotland.

Sadly, our worst fears about a post-Brexit reality where Westminster controls all the powers and the funds are coming true. And Scotland is losing out as a result.

Richard Lochhead is the Scottish Government Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work