By Martin Kelly
A request by the Scottish Government for funding to be made available for ‘shovel ready’ projects looks set to be ignored by UK Chancellor George Osborne.
First Minister Alex Salmond had asked for £300 million to be made available after UK PM David Cameron reportedly said he was sympathetic to the case.
However media reports claim that the Mr Osborne has dismissed the idea which followed a request by the PM that Scottish Ministers submit a list of projects for consideration.
Mr Salmond has said that he would be “extremely disappointed” if the request was to be rejected in such an offhand manner, Scotland’s capital budget was cut by 32% by the coalition government.
In a letter to Mr Cameron the First Minister reminded the PM he had made “these representations in good faith”.
Mr Salmond added: “As you will remember, you told me that you were sympathetic to the capital investment point but were sceptical as to whether projects could be ready to take effect from this coming financial year.
“You readily agreed to being sent a list of ‘shovel-ready’ projects that could have an immediate and beneficial impact. The clear understanding was that if we could demonstrate that such projects could be taken forward in an appropriate timescale then they would be given proper consideration.
“This we have done and there is now no argument that some £300m of capital projects could be deployed in the coming financial year, giving a vital boost to local economies around Scotland.”
He called on Mr Cameron to confirm whether reports that the Scottish Government’s call for funding would be dismissed in the Budget were correct.
The First Minister challenged the PM to confirm his earlier indication of support.
“I therefore invite you to dissociate yourself from the comments that have been attributed to representatives of your government,” said Mr Salmond.
“I also ask once again that you take action to ensure that this week’s Budget delivers for Scotland. You could do this by agreeing to provide the additional funding to support the list of ‘shovel-ready’ projects I enclosed with my letter.”
The Scottish Government had submitted a list of capital projects on which work could start immediately if additional funding was made available. Ministers estimated that every extra £100m of funding would create 1,400 jobs.
Calls for additional capital spending were backed by STUC assistant secretary Stephen Boyd who yesterday called for investment in infrastructure to boost the economy.
Giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee, Mr Boyd said:
“Politicians right across the spectrum recognise you should invest in infrastructure in this moment in time, which not only gets the economy moving in the short-time, but it boosts the long-term capacity of the economy to grow.”
Joan McAlpine, SNP MSP for South Scotland and member of the committee, also tabled an amendment to a parliamentary motion urging David Cameron to respond to the Scottish Government’s demand that funding be released for upgrade of a section of road in her region.
Speaking yesterday Ms McAlpine said:
“This call from Stephen Boyd chimes with the SNP’s position that the UK Government must invest in infrastructure to get the economy moving.
“Mr Boyd recognises this will not only help immediately in boosting the economy, but also will help in the longer term.”
The SNP MSP said that the mounting calls for investment should not be ignored and called for immediate action to promote investment, employment and economic growth and “not another damaging cuts campaign.”
Ms McAlpine added:
“The Scottish Government cannot borrow for infrastructure investment due to the constraints of devolution. “David Cameron told the First Minister he would consider giving capital projects the go ahead if the Scottish Government provided details.
“Mr Cameron has now been sent details of 36 shovel ready projects and he should prove he is true to his word.
“The A75 in the South of Scotland should be a priority – that’s why the Scottish government has included the upgrade of the Hardmount to Kinmount section in the list of projects submitted to Downing Street.”