THE European Union’s structural funds poured investment into areas of Scotland long neglected by the UK Government.

Getting back those funds through being an independent country in Europe will help put rocket boosters on our economic recovery.

As we entered week two of the General Election campaign, it was predictable that the usual “SNP bad” stories would start to ramp up a notch.

True to form, one such story that caught my eye was the eye-watering claim that the Scottish Government was returning £450 million it had received via the EU’s Structural Funds.

READ MORE: MEPs pledge to support independent Scotland joining EU ahead of election

A pretty outrageous state of affairs to be fair, if it were true. But it isn’t. There is an issue there, and the story isn’t entirely wrong, but the presentation of it is downright mischievous.

Bear with me for a brief technical moment, since it’s important to address the background to this fully, as the context (very much missing from the original article) is crucial to understanding.

The funds in question refer to the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund for the 2014-20 period, respectively €476m and €465m, a total of around £780m.

Since the EU is a sensible institution, it chooses to deliver these payments over a multi-annual framework instead of annually, thereby ensuring consistency of funding across several years to enable projects to take root.

Moreover, EU funding is almost always contingent on domestic match-funding from the local authority, university, partnership, Scottish Government or whoever.

Anyone who has engaged in such programmes will know that there is always a degree of underspend because some projects fall through, usually for valid reasons.

Given that during this time period we had the ongoing fractious Brexit negotiations as well as the Covid-19 pandemic, this goes a significant way towards explaining the figure reported over the weekend.

This, though, does not give the full picture since it is only an estimate and the final expenditure figures will not be known until 2025, when the programmes formally close.

Furthermore, in the past, the wash-up at the end of the programme would count towards the next funding round – except in this case there is no more EU funding for Scotland due to Brexit.

The National: Saltire and EU flag

So what did we get in the past with these funds?

Digital connectivity was increased through provision of superfast broadband. Employment opportunities were increased by helping young people into work and expanding apprenticeship schemes.

Scotland’s business competitiveness was increased with programmes targeting small and medium enterprises. Community environments were made more healthy and sustainable by increasing the quality and quantity of green areas in Scotland’s towns and cities.

Investment was put into research for low-carbon technology. Roads, bridges and causeways were built to connect islands and communities.

READ MORE: Commission President candidate: 'I absolutely want an independent Scotland'

By helping disadvantaged people from workless, single-parent and low-income households to increase skill levels and find work, these funds also helped to tackle poverty and inequality.

However, that funding came to an end with Brexit, and the UK’s Shared Prosperity Fund has been a poor replacement.

The UK Government promised that all EU funding lost to Scotland would be replaced in full. As the first payments came through in 2022, it was clear that this was not the case.

In the first round of funding, the UK Government only allocated £212m to Scotland over a three-year period, when EU funding would have been worth around £549m over three years – a shortfall of £337m.

Westminster also legislated to bypass Scotland’s democratically elected parliament when allocating funding, blocking Holyrood ministers from taking decisions on how this money should be spent – including in areas that are devolved.

As poor as a replacement the Shared Prosperity Fund is, at least there was still some funding coming through. But now it’s been revealed that to pay for their absurd national service plan, the Tories would scrap the fund. So much for levelling up!

Go around Scotland’s communities and you will see the tangible benefits that EU Structural Funds delivered. They helped increase employment, increase connectivity and increase opportunities across our society.

Having seen what the alternative is outside the EU, we can do so much better as an independent state back in it. The only guarantee of seeing the return of Structural Funds is through EU membership, pure and simple. And if you want this, only a vote for the SNP on July 4 will deliver that.