Levelling-up funding 'crucial' to Scottish communities, says Ross

Douglas Ross
Douglas Ross said the effects of levelling-up funding were already being felt around Scotland [BBC]

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has said the prime minister's latest pledge on levelling-up funding would be "crucial" in helping local communities in Scotland.

Rishi Sunak has announced a further 30 towns across the UK - including Perth - will receive £20m each if the Tories are re-elected.

SNP leader John Swinney said the Conservatives' levelling-up approach had "not gone with the grain" of the SNP's investment in communities.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the policy was a slogan for the Tories and "not meaningful action".

But Douglas Ross insisted the investment reaffirmed his party's commitment to "focus on the real issues that matter to people".

It was announced last year that seven "overlooked" Scottish towns will each be given £20m to regenerate high streets and tackle anti-social behaviour.

Speaking on the general election campaign trail in Moray, Douglas Ross told BBC Scotland News: "It's crucial funding. I'm delighted.

"There are towns in Scotland that benefit from that funding already and will benefit from the next round as well."

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The promised funding would take the total number of UK towns on the programme to more than 100.

They already include Greenock, Irvine, Kilmarnock, Coatbridge, Clydebank, Dumfries and Elgin.

The Tories say the towns were chosen based on factors such as median pay and life expectancy.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the Conservatives had "levelled down our country and destroyed communities right across the UK – including here in Scotland".

While the Liberal Democrats said the Tories had failed to deliver on their levelling-up promises and the policy had "pitted councils against each other and left them begging for scraps".

Speaking on the campaign trail in Aberdeen, SNP leader John Swinney said his party would "continue the sustained investment that is undertaken in a really supportive way to local economies".

John Swinney
John Swinney said the Conservative scheme had not delivered investment in Scottish communities [BBC]

He added: "We’ll continue to work carefully with the local economies of Scotland to ensure that we deliver the investment required to enhance the infrastructure which will support economic growth."

Meanwhile, the SNP and Scottish Conservative leaders have both said their parties will target key clashes in constituencies across Scotland.

Douglas Ross said the Tories would go into the general election hopeful of gaining seats "which only the Conservatives and SNP can win".

He said: "If people unite behind the Scottish Conservatives in key seats, we can beat the SNP, end their obsession with independence and get the focus on the real issues that matter to people."

John Swinney said his party would campaign on "the damage that's been done to Scotland by the triple whammy of austerity, Brexit and the cost of living crisis".

"All of these are the product of Westminster decision-making," he said. "And the answer to that in Scotland, of course, is for us to make sure that decisions are made in Scotland for Scotland.

"That’s at the heart of the SNP election campaign because we cannot allow Scotland to damaged in the way that we have been."

Anas Sarwar
Anas Sarwar said voting Labour was the only way to defeat the Tory government [PA Media]

Anas Sarwar took Scottish Labour's campaign to East Kilbride in South Lanarkshire, where he said the general election provided an opportunity for change "which Scotland cannot afford to miss".

He said: "The sooner we see the back of this rotten Tory government the better.

"But the only way we get to rid of this rotten Tory government is if we elect a Labour government across the UK."