Angus MacNeil MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar has reacted with caution and scepticism to the announcement of the UK Government’s long-promised plans for a Levelling Up Strategy which they state will bridge the gap on services in different parts of the UK.
Mr MacNeil says if there is any new funding in the Levelling Up strategy announced by Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove today, it is to be welcomed, however he expressed strong doubts that funding would match EU funding sources lost through Brexit and Scotland would likely be left out of pocket on that count alone.
The Scottish Government and opposition parties at Westminster have expressed disappointment that the plans do not include any new money or fresh thinking and sadly it looks like a distraction announcement from the disasters of Boris Johnson at present.
Many are suggesting that the launch of the strategy is an attempt by the Prime Minister to detract attention from the weeks of pressure regarding parties at Downing Street during lockdown restrictions.
Angus MacNeil said: “If the UK Government are serious, then there should be a lot more money behind this.
“We need to engage on this and we have to make sure that the UK Government is not just putting out a glib press release to say they are doing something or play silly political games with the Scottish Government at the expense of the hopes in the North and West of Scotland.
“If the UK Government are serious about these plans, it needs to be serious with money.
“The North and West of Scotland were living in an ‘economic freezer’ as a result of decades of Bank of England financial policies which are made for the Southeast of England, making Scotland out to be geographically peripheral, which we are not as Ireland, Norway and Demark prove.”
He pointed out that issues relating to connectivity of the islands and the potential to explore Sub Sea tunnel options, as in other parts of Europe, could be an option if there was a will and financial support to do so.
If the UK Government are serious, then there should be a lot more money behind this.