THERE have been persistent suspicions that the Conservative Government at Westminster preferentially distributes its so-called Levelling Up in Conservative supporting areas even though the districts may be more prosperous than more deprived areas which would on the face of it be more deserving of the funding but which vote for opposition parties.

If true this would suggest the Conservatives are not using their much-vaunted Levelling Up programme as a means of tackling the UK's stark regional inequalities but rather are deploying it as a cynical exercise in buying votes using public money.

An analysis for the New Statesman magazine in June this year found that the suspicions that Conservative voting constituencies are receiving more than their fair share have been confirmed.  Constituencies with Tory MPs have received significantly more levelling-up funding than other areas with a similar level of deprivation but which have an MP from an opposition party.

The study also found that many relatively prosperous Conservative constituencies have received more funding per head of population than far more deprived Labour held seats. This pattern is particularly marked in those constituencies in the so-called Red Wall which the Conservatives took from Labour at the last General Election. 

In total, the figures examined by the New Statesman found that Conservative constituencies have received £64 per head of population from Levelling Up funds than they would have done if they had an MP from a different party. The disparity was even more stark in those living in seats won by the Conservatives in 2019. These constituencies have received £88 more per head of population than seats with comparable levels of deprivation or poverty which are represented by an MP from an opposition party.

The National: The UK Government isn't concerned with channelling money to where it's needed mostThe UK Government isn't concerned with channelling money to where it's needed most

There is little transparency in how Levelling Up funds are allocated, rather than using the widely-used Indices of Multiple Deprivation, the Department of Levelling Up, which was headed by Michael Gove until Boris Johnson sacked him, reportedly for telling Johnson that he ought to resign, uses its own specially-created formulas in order to decide where the money goes. As a consequence of this only 39 out of the 100 most deprived areas in England actually receive any grants from the Levelling Up funds.  Blackpool, which judging by the Indices of Multiple Deprivation is the most deprived area in England, receives no Levelling Up funds at all.  

In a video which was apparently filmed on July 29, Conservative leadership contender Rishi Sunak was recorded boasting to Tory party members in the prosperous Kent town of Tunbridge Wells that he had ensured that government funding intended to assist the most deprived communities was instead diverted to leafy and relatively well-off areas like Tunbridge Wells. Sunak said: "We inherited formulas from the Labour Party, that shoved all the funding into deprived urban areas. That needed to be undone: I started the work of undoing that."

The Conservatives are so alienated from common decency that Sunak and his supporters attempted to defend his remarks once they became public. But Liz Truss is every bit as culpable. She was a senior member of the Government while all this was going on and she did not speak out and she did not resign.

These are the funds that the Conservatives seek to spend in Scotland, bypassing the Scottish Parliament and undermining the devolution settlement. Based on their behaviour in England, the Conservatives will not use the money to target those communities with the greatest need, but rather as an exercise in using public money to buy votes for themselves and to punish those who vote for opposition parties. 

They will use your money and my money to make the rich even richer at the expense of the poorest and to assist themselves politically. And then they will shamelessly tell us that this is a Union benefit and we should be grateful.

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

To receive our full newsletter including this analysis straight to your email inbox, click here and tick the box for the REAL Scottish Politics