MICHAEL Gove has denied that UK Government funding in Scotland is politically motivated.

The Levelling Up Secretary – speaking remotely at a Holyrood committee about the UK Government’s plans to replace EU structural funds in Scotland – was taken to task by SNP MSP John Mason, who questioned why funds had been allocated to Aberdeenshire rather than Scotland’s poorest areas.

“Some people would expect the money to go to really needy areas and none to go to Aberdeenshire, even though it does have some pockets of deprivation,” Mason said. 

Gove responded that the “nature of need” varies. He added: “We do make sure that funding goes to areas where productivity has been lower in the past and there’s an opportunity for productivity to improve.”

It comes after the UK Government was criticised late last year after three seats held by Tory MPs were granted Levelling Up funding.

READ MORE: ‘We are ‘f***ing up as a government’: Covid inquiry hears Michael Gove WhatsApp

Moray, Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders, represented by Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, Alister Jack and David Mundell respectively, were awarded millions of pounds for projects in the latest round of funding in November.

Labour MSP Michael Marra also questioned the criteria used to allocate funding to investment zones, which were awarded to Glasgow and Aberdeen in June last year. 

"The allocations were made in Glasgow – where the SNP are defending seats in the General Election - and Aberdeen, where the Tories are defending seats," he said. 

In the absence of a published criteria ahead of time, you open yourself up to accusations."

Gove replied that there are “all sorts of allegations flung”.

He added: "I never want to rule out Conservative prospects but we're allocating funds to Clydebank, Coatbridge, Greenock – I don't think they're yet on our target list for the next General Election. But hope springs eternal.

The UK Government’s levelling up fund has been called a “power grab” because it is allocated directly by the Tories in London to Scottish local authorities.

In the past, EU funding was passed to Holyrood where decisions on where it should be spent were taken.