REMEMBER Boris Johnson standing on the steps of 10 Downing Street promising that he was going to “level up” the UK? We had no idea what it meant then and know less now. That said, meaningless soundbites are the bread and butter of Westminster politics these days.

Two prime ministers later and we have just had the announcement of the second phase of the Levelling-Up Fund. Glasgow submitted seven bids to this round of the fund, many of which would have helped redevelop some of the most deprived communities in Scotland.

There were bids to do extensive work in Possilpark in my constituency, Easterhouse, Drumchapel and Maryhill, along with much-needed improvements to the People’s Palace.

READ MORE: Interactive map reveals the parts of Scotland ignored by Tory Levelling Up cash

Officers and councillors spent months preparing these bids to give our communities the best possible chance of securing funding, and the latest estimates are that about £500,000 of officer time went into these.

While forcing councils to compete against one another is in itself an awful way to distribute finance which should, by rights, just be given to local authorities to address local priorities, the possibility of securing much-needed investment could not be turned down. The work was done and the bids were submitted in good faith.

However, at the last minute it seems that government ministers intervened in the decision to say that if a local authority had been awarded anything from the first round, no bids could be awarded funding in this round.

This ruled all of Glasgow’s bids as ineligible for funding and cost our city in the region of £60 million which it would have received had the goalposts not been moved at the eleventh hour.

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So instead of areas like Possilpark and Easterhouse getting absolutely essential investment, the Prime Minister’s wealthy constituency was awarded £19m. This has exposed the lie of levelling up for what it is – just another way for the Tories to funnel public money to their own pet projects.

The idea that spreading this funding evenly around the UK is somehow a fair way to do it is total nonsense. To properly address inequality, you need to pump money and support into the places that need it, again and again.

This takes a level of courage and conviction that no Westminster government will ever show, given the political invertebrates that inhabit that place.

You can’t address underlying inequality and deprivation by throwing a few quid at communities as a one-off, and you definitely can’t do it by giving that money to already wealthy communities.

Systemic problems are at the heart of most of our community problems and they stem from the contraction of people’s incomes and the erosion of the social safety net after 13 years of Tory austerity.

None of these things can be solved in an election cycle, we have got to move away from the short-termism and need for a headline and build sustainable resilience in communities so that everyone has the chance to fulfil their potential rather than waiting on the outcomes of a rigged funding pot.

We were told that this fund was going to be a direct replacement for EU funding but the net loss to Scotland in the last round was £151m and that figure just got bigger.

It’s not just Scotland that lost out either, other major cities in the north of England were left reeling in apparent punishment for having the audacity not to have elected members of the Conservative kleptocracy.

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But there’s something else, something fundamental that’s needed to address inequality and that is the will, the desire. Sadly, that is missing in the UK Government. But this Tory government does not want to level up, it has no interest in empowering people or communities.

I sit in that chamber and I hear Tory backbenchers getting more exacerbated about SNP MPs raising government corruption than they ever have about people dying from poverty.

How dare we talk about multi-million-pound contracts being given to friends of Tory MPs during Covid? Get back in your box and keep quiet because you don’t understand how it all works. That’s what bothers so many Tory MPs.

Last week there was an urgent question about 200 children who have gone missing from the Government’s care in England in the last couple of months and the fact that nobody seems to be looking for them. These children happen to be asylum seekers who arrived here on their own.

I was so heartened to hear First Minister Nicola Sturgeon say this week that “While those children are here, they are our responsibility, and we should care for them and love them and ensure that they are looked after.”

The National: Nicola Sturgeon

I was shocked to hear a Tory backbencher shout “well they shouldn’t have come here illegally”. They are children for goodness sake.

So trust me when I say that this is not a government that gives a damn about levelling up. Possilpark didn’t get the funding it needed because they do not care about the people of Possilpark. Easterhouse missed out because, to them, Easterhouse does not matter.

The Scottish Government has a fixed budget; Glasgow City Council is having to make eye-watering cuts.

While as part of the Union, we pay into the UK system, we are entitled to more back than we’re getting but I hold out no hope that we’ll get it.

There’s only one way forward for Scotland. The only way to level up is to settle up, get out of the UK and plough our own furrow.