More light has been shone on why the Scottish Government rejected Dumfries and Galloway Council’s bid for £1 million of costs associated with the extreme weather conditions that hit the region in March.
Dumfriesshire MSP Elaine Murray tabled a series of Parliamentary questions, asking the Scottish Government how much communication there was between the council and Scottish Government officials before the application was made and why the application failed.
To the first question the Government responded that there had been discussions and guidance was given before the application was made, while in response to Elaine's second question, the Scottish Government responded by stating which parts of the council’s claims had failed to meet the criteria as laid out in the Bellwin Scheme guidelines.
Dumfriesshire MSP Elaine Murray said:
“I asked the Scottish Government the questions regarding the council’s application as local people deserved to know why we lost out on the funding and there was no answers coming from the council. The Government’s answers confirm which parts of the council's application failed to meet the criteria. You really wonder why the impression was given by both the council and he Scottish Government that support was possible when it is so clear that the application didn't appear to come close to the set criteria".
Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown added:
“From the Scottish Government’s answer, it looks quite clear that the council’s application was doomed to fail from start. The Scottish Government gave the impression they were helping when they announced they would look at an application under the Bellwin scheme but it is increasingly looking like that was just to give them something to say at the time and the council were never going to meet the criteria . The most disappointing aspect of this whole matter is that it looks like it is now left to the people of Dumfries and Galloway to pay the bill for the clean-up. I have written to the Scottish Government asking for an alternative source of funding to try and avoid this. It is frankly insulting that SNPs MSPs locally are now saying its fine that the hard pressed local taxpayer has to pick up the £1.7 m bill just because a small number of farmers received some compensation. Local people rose to the challenge when the extreme weather hit and it’s time for the Scottish Government to do so as well, instead of just walking away.”
Leader of the Labour Group on Dumfries and Galloway council, Ronnie Nicholson commented:
“I previously stated my fear that the Council had mishandled the Bellwin application and the answers given by the Scottish Government appear to back this up. You can see from one of the answers that the council worked with Scottish Government officials and were given guidance before the application was made yet the application still didn't meet the criteria. On top of that, the council tried to claim for expenditure outside the two month qualifying period even though they were emailed with the timescale. You have to ask why the council waited more than two months to fix the roads. I hope the council will review the process they use when applying for Scottish Government funding. Local people have been let down".