I HAVE written previously in this column about the UK Government’s plans to allow Scottish local authorities to bid for levelling up funds which are designed to invest directly in communities across the country.

You may have heard the term levelling up a lot and not be entirely clear on what it means. Fundamentally it seeks to tackle the current inequity between parts of the United Kingdom when it comes to creating opportunities for our citizens.

While my party’s commitment to levelling up predates Covid, the pandemic has undoubtedly placed a spotlight on the differing abilities of communities to respond to social and economic challenges. It is a priority of the UK Government to ensure nobody is left behind as we look to kickstart our economic recovery and build back better from this crisis.

In Glasgow, while I welcomed the fact that the council were prepared to submit a number of funding applications, I was extremely disappointed by their reluctance to pursue the maximum benefit from the money available. Bureaucratic excuses will mean little to members of the public who are desperate to see this investment in their own local areas. We shouldn’t inevitably accept that time constraints or technicalities could mean Glasgow loses out.

Elsewhere in the UK, we already see the levelling up agenda accelerating. An infrastructure revolution is set to transform millions of lives which will create vital opportunities and help drive a pathway towards greater prosperity.

Just last week the UK Government announced a £401 million investment package in rail upgrades including £317 million into major Transpennine improvements which will make train journeys across England faster, greener and convenient.

The funding will also help new stations open in Leeds and Exeter as well as investment in improving freight links which will boost economic growth. These announcements coincided with the completion of the first phase of a £1.5 billion Midland main line upgrade which has delivered the launch of East Midland railway’s first electric services which has cut carbon emissions by 77 per cent on the route between Corby and London St Pancras.

You might be rightly wondering why I am focusing on projects underway elsewhere in the UK. The answer is simple. We do not see this level of ambition here in Scotland under this SNP Government. Based on their track record of our transport infrastructure over their 14 years in office, we can only expect a never-ending cycle of incompetence from the SNP.

For a party who told us they could create an independent Scottish state within two years, they haven’t been able to support the building of two ferries. Island communities have been left without lifeline services for years as the SNP have failed to sort out delays and allowed the budget to spiral out of control. This kind of mismanagement of our nation’s infrastructure can’t be allowed to hinder Scotland’s recovery.

For levelling up to be successful it needs engagement from all devolved administrations as well as local authorities across the UK. To recover from this once in a generation shock to our national health, as well as the lasting socio-economic scars that lockdown restrictions will leave behind, we need to pull together as one United Kingdom.

That is what levelling up is all about – equalising opportunity and economic growth. For the sake of all of us, regardless of political persuasion, that aim needs to be our overriding focus in the months and years to come.