ROSS MP Charles Kennedy has slammed the Scottish Government over “sleight of hand” in claims being made on millions of pounds of public spending.
The LibDem’s broadside against the SNP’s Holyrood administration comes as lines are drawn over the independence debate.
Mr Kennedy, MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, had earlier questioned the SNP’s reluctance to release a timetable for using the additional £50 million the UK Parliament has released for the Caledonian Sleeper.
He says the funding was to be matched by the Scottish Government, but that six months on the money has been loaned to Scottish Water with no prospect of it being used for its intended purpose.
Mr Kennedy is now challenging the Scottish Government over what he says are misleading statements on the source of money for so-called “super-broadband” improvements in Scotland.
The MP said: “As the debate over Scottish independence becomes more focussed and specific, all sides agree that it must be as well informed as possible.
“I’m sure that I’m not alone in being rather concerned over the doubts being cast on the issue of matched funding for sleeper upgrading and now the way in which the Scottish Government appears willing to claim credit for super- broadband funding which in fact has come from the UK government. We need greater transparency if Scottish voters are to come to those well informed choices. SNP sleight of hand will not do.”
He was told by Jim Paice, Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, that “the lion’s share” of the funding was from the UK Government.
Added Mr Paice: “As he well knows, it is not unusual for such claims to be made in Scotland, and we all have a responsibility to ensure that the Scottish people know the full facts.
“The £530 million that I mentioned is to roll out superfast broadband to 90 per cent of the population of the whole UK, and as I have said, there are measures to address the other 10 per cent. That is all a UK policy.”
Contacted for comment, a Scottish Government spokesperson told the Journal: “The Scottish Government has been absolutely clear on its commitment to match fund the sleeper services — it has committed a minimum of £50million to match the maximum of £50million being invested by the Treasury and on broadband the Scottish Government is funding the majority of the roll-out within an overall funding package of £248.5million in Scotland. It is of course proper that the UK Government makes a contribution and we welcome that.
“From that point it is entirely a decision for the Scottish Government to decide how that money is spent to the maximum benefit of Scotland.
“That was the basis of the substantial funding announcement we made for the Highlands and Islands. As anyone involved in the rail industry knows, rolling stock improvements cannot happen overnight.
“Enhancing or replacing this stock is not a short process and we have agreed a way forward with the UK Government which protects the funding while we consult passengers on the services and facilities they would like to see on the improved sleeper service.”
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