KATE Forbes accused Jackie Baillie of “hypocrisy” as the two clashed over EU funding which has yet to be allocated by the Scottish Government during a heated exchange at First Minister’s Questions (FMQs).

Filling in for John Swinney, Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes was asked about reports which said that some £450 million in funding looks set to be handed back to the European Union – figures which the Scottish Government has questioned.

While there is uncertainty over the exact amount, the Scottish Government has until the end of June to allocate EU money which it was handed before Brexit, which must be co-financed with match funding. Any not spent on eligible schemes aimed at reducing poverty and boosting the economy will need to be returned.

The Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) said in a report published on Thursday that there had initially been €941m allocated from 2014-2020, but this had decreased by €157m due to failures to meet expenditure targets.

Of the €783m available, €503m has been allocated, the Spice report said, leaving €280m (around £238m at current exchange rates).

If all €280m is returned – a figure the Scottish Government has said will not be known till 2025 – then including the €157m decrease, Scotland will have handed back or lost out on a total of €437m (around £372m).

At FMQs, Baillie raised reports of the Scottish Government having to “hand back up to half a billion pounds of funding that should have been spent on crucial economic and anti-poverty projects across Scotland”.

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"That is simply a scandal and it happened when Kate Forbes was finance secretary,” the Scottish Labour depute leader said.

Responding, Forbes accused Baillie of “hypocrisy” and “spin”.

Forbes said the Spice report had “not found evidence for that £450m claim”.

She went on: “The points about this story are clear. First of all, 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.

“Secondly, we do not expect the final figures to be markedly different from elsewhere in the UK, or indeed from previous programmes. So our commitment is to spend as much of the money as possible.

“And of course, the irony of the question is that the Labour Party has no intention of ever returning Scotland to Europe and therefore depriving us of European funding indefinitely.”

Baillie pointed to figures reported over the weekend which said that, based on the £450m estimate, Scotland is due to return 28% of the EU funding, Wales will return 9%, England 6%, and Northern Ireland 2%.

Forbes said: “Let me start with a point of consensus, that I think the public do want to be treated with respect.

“They are tired of spin, and Labour have spent this week accusing the Conservatives of spinning numbers and that's precisely why I think there's the air of hypocrisy right now in terms of the figures that Jackie Baillie has come to this chamber with.

“Because at the end of the day Labour have to answer a question from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, they have said that Labour are effectively signing up to sharp spending cuts.

“They need to have an answer to that and I have not heard one yet.”