Scottish Labour accuses SNP of 'financial incompetence' as millions in EU funding left unspent

Jackie Baillie quizzed Kate Forbes on Government spending
-Credit: (Image: PA)

Kate Forbes has been forced to deny the Scottish Government is returning around £450 million of European funding.

Labour's Jackie Baillie accused SNP ministers today of "financial incompetence" after a report suggested that millions in EU Structural Funds allocated to tackle poverty across the country had not been spent.

Forbes insisted the Scottish Government will spend as much of the earmarked cash as possible by 2025.

A report by the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre said the Government was initially allocated £801 million, but the figure now stands at £667 million.

The report said that as of this month 64 per cent of the revised funding had been paid out to the Scottish Government, with £238 million remaining.

It is expected a further two claims will be made by ministers.

The report said that even after these claims are considered, £116 million, had not been earmarked by the end of the 2023 deadline.

Forbes told MSPs: "Final expenditure figures will not be known until the programme formally closes in 2025. To have spent all the money a year in advance, I think, would raise questions itself.

“We do not expect the final figures to be markedly different from elsewhere in the UK or indeed from previous programmes. Our commitment is to spend as much of the money as possible.”

But Dame Jackie said the underspend is an indication of “SNP financial mismanagement” as she said her party’s analysis estimates around £5 billion of public funds hacw been “wasted” in 17 years of the current Scottish Government.

She said: “On Sunday it was revealed that the SNP will effectively hand back up to half-a-billion pounds worth of funding that should’ve been spent on crucial economic and anti-poverty projects across Scotland.

“That is simply a scandal and it happened when Kate Forbes was finance secretary.”

The “clawback in Scotland is likely to be greater than anywhere else in the UK”, she said, with a 28% figure likely in Scotland compared to 9% in Wales, 6% in England and 2% in Northern Ireland.

Baillie told Forbes: “This comes down to the financial incompetence of this SNP Government.

“At a time when people are crying out for help during a cost-of-living crisis and our public services are stripped to the bone, it is unforgivable that the SNP is wasting taxpayers’ money.”

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