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Bungling SNP ‘faces handing £450m back to the EU’ after failing to spend it on poverty and economic development

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The SNP has been accused of ‘negligence on a remarkable scale’ amid claims Scotland faces handing £450million of unspent funding back to the EU.

The Scottish government is expected to return 28 per cent of the European structural and investment funding it received in the past six years.

The huge blow is apparently a result of failing to allocate the cash to tackling poverty and economic development before a deadline this month.

The grim figures emerged as John Swinney launched the SNP’s election campaign – with another poll showing the party is on track to lose a swathe of its MPs. 

John Swinney launched the SNP's election campaign today - as another poll showed the party is on track to lose a swathe of its MPs

John Swinney launched the SNP’s election campaign today – as another poll showed the party is on track to lose a swathe of its MPs

The Scottish government is expected to return 28 per cent of the European structural and investment funding it received in the past six years (pictured, stock picture of EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen

The Scottish government is expected to return 28 per cent of the European structural and investment funding it received in the past six years (pictured, stock picture of EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen 

EU data analysed by the Sunday Times indicates that Scotland has already returned 199million euros from the funding pot for the six-year programme.

A further 331million euros has not been earmarked, suggesting that the total could be almost £451 million at current exchange rates. 

Schemes to bolster employment, education, training and small businesses are among the areas feared to be to losing out.

It is a huge headache for the SNP after former first minister Humza Yousaf introduced a higher-rate income tax band in April amid a scramble to fill a £1.5billion hole in budgets. 

EU funding is not typically used up entirely. But in contrast, Wales is projected to return 9 per cent of the EU funding, England 6 per cent and Northern Ireland just 2 per cent. 

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: ‘This is waste and negligence on an unforgivable scale.

‘The SNP have poured half a billion pounds down the drain. Their new slogan should be squander for Scotland.

‘This funding could have been spent on vital infrastructure across Scotland, yet SNP incompetence has lost it for good.

‘This is up there with the ferries scandal when it comes to the SNP Government wasting taxpayers’ cash.’

Scottish Labour frontbencher Jackie Baillie said ‘This shocking report lays bare the scale of the chaos engulfing Scotland’s NHS.

‘That so many patients are being left to languish in corridors while in need of urgent help is nothing short of a scandal.

‘This is the result of 17 years of SNP failure and 14 years of Tory failure.

‘Labour will deliver the change that our NHS desperately needs – starting by boosting funding by £134million a year.’

But a Scottish government spokeswoman said: ‘These figures do not reflect the totality of spending to date from the 2014-20 European structural funds programmes. Final expenditure figures will not be known until 2025, when the programmes formally close.

‘Until then, the Scottish government intends to maximise reimbursement from the European Commission where possible.

‘The use of European Structural Funds is bound by strict conditions and all stakeholders of the programmes are responsible for complying with its regulations. Thousands of people, businesses and communities have benefited from the investment of the 2014-20 funds in Scotland to date.’

Meanwhile, a Survation survey has revealed 32 per cent of voters intend to back the SNP in the July general election, six percentage points lower than its previous poll two months ago.

Labour is on course to establish a clear lead in Scotland with 36 per cent of the vote, according to the poll.

The result would mean the SNP would slide from the 48 seats it won in 2019 to just 16, while Labour would see a rise from two MPs in Scotland to 28.

The Tories are on 17 per cent of the vote, which would see them win eight seats, while the Liberal Democrats are on 9 per cent, giving them five seats, according to a projection based on the results.

Polling expert Sir John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said: ‘The fallout from Humza Yousaf’s termination of the Bute House Agreement has enabled the SNP to install a somewhat less unpopular leader in John Swinney.

‘However, Mr Swinney’s rating is well below what Nicola Sturgeon enjoyed before she resigned as the SNP’s head last year, and the downfall of Mr Yousaf has not provided an immediate remedy for the SNP’s electoral difficulties.

Mr Swinney urged people to ‘vote SNP to put Scotland’s interests first’ as he formally launched the party’s election campaign in Glasgow.

Labour (pictured, Keir Starmer with leader in Scotland Anas Sarwar) is on course to establish a clear lead in Scotland with 36 per cent of the vote, according to polls

Labour (pictured, Keir Starmer with leader in Scotland Anas Sarwar) is on course to establish a clear lead in Scotland with 36 per cent of the vote, according to polls

Mr Swinney said Scots ‘want us to demonstrate the relevance of independence to their lives’.

He said: ‘If we don’t then we are not likely to get much of a hearing in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis and, to be frank, nor would we deserve to.

‘So, when we talk about independence we need to demonstrate again, and again, and again, that we are talking about people’s core concerns like raising living standards and protecting the NHS.

‘That laser-like focus on the daily concerns of people is our guiding star. There are some people telling me to forget about independence at this election. But you know what?

‘After looking at Keir Starmer’s serial U-turns in the pursuit of power, I think people are crying out for political leadership that sticks to its principles.’



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