MICHAEL Gove has called on the Scottish Government to publish an "itemised account" of how it has spent £200 million it was given to prepare for Brexit

The Cabinet Office minister said he had heard "one or two voices of concern" from businesses over how the funding has been used.

He said the UK Government had supplied the Scottish Government with "just shy of" £200m to help prepare for the end of the transition period.

Mr Gove made the comments while giving evidence to Holyrood's Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee, where he also said he was optimistic about a post-Brexit trade deal being reached.

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Scottish Tory MSP Oliver Mundell raised concerns about a "lack of transparency" from the Scottish Government over how the £200m had been spent.

Responding, Mr Gove said: "It is the case that the money that the UK Government has supplied to the Scottish Government for Brexit preparation is, as you say, around £200m – just shy of it I think. 

"But the key thing is that there has to be accountability for how that money is spent."

He said he respected the devolution settlement, adding: "I certainly don't believe it's my responsibility to say to [Constitution Secretary] Mike [Russell] or to any other Scottish Government minister how that money should be spent. 

"But they should be accountable to the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish people for how it's spent. 

"The National Audit Office audits the UK Government and quite rightly asks questions about expenditure. 

"I think that Mike and other Scottish Government ministers should present an itemised account of exactly how that money has been spent, because like you I've heard one or two voices of concern from some in business

"I'm sure that the Scottish Government would be able to allay those concerns if they were fully transparent about that expenditure."

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Mr Mundell said there was a concern that in order to make Brexit seem as disruptive as possible "the Scottish Government might not be passing that money on to businesses and local authorities and might be putting off some of the preparations that we know will be needed whatever the future trading relationship is". 

Elsewhere, Mr Gove said he tried to avoid "pitting parts of the UK against each other" over funding for preparations to leave the EU.

While Scotland has received almost £200m, Northern Ireland has been given £400m from the Treasury.

Mr Gove said it was a "fair challenge" to ask why Scotland did not receive a population-based share of funding, but said he wanted to ensure "that the people of Northern Ireland are able to enjoy the fruits of peace and prosperity".

He went on to say that the UK was built on "solidarity and sharing", and would help countries within the union that had faced "challenges" in the past.

Scotland would be entitled to £1.4 billion if the funding was issued based on population, SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said.

Despite appearing to reject the idea of more money for Scotland, Mr Gove said the decision is kept "under review".

He said: "Pitting one part of the United Kingdom by saying it's not fair that Northern Ireland benefits ... that's not the sort of thing that I'm terribly keen on.

"My view is that the United Kingdom is built on solidarity and sharing, and that the United Kingdom benefits from the fact that those parts of the UK that may have had a tougher time in the past, we stand by and we support.

"That's one of the reasons why, from Lanarkshire to Larne, the UK Government spends the money that it does - because we want to show solidarity with those who may have endured whether it was deindustrialisation in the past or other challenges."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Any suggestion of a lack of transparency in relation to Scottish Government spending is entirely inaccurate.

"The Scottish Budget is approved by the Scottish Parliament and published annually on the Scottish Government’s website.

"We have received a range of Barnett consequentials that derive from the UK Government’s activities on Brexit preparations and like other consequentials they are absorbed into the Scottish Budget and used in line with Scottish priorities.

"This budget has supported a vast range of preparatory work involving virtually every public body in Scotland, including every local authority. 

"Within this, we know that households who are already struggling financially will find life even harder after EU exit, and at a time when local government and the third sector resources are already stretched.

"This is why we have created an additional £100 million package of measures to support vulnerable people, communities and the third sector in order to help those on low incomes, children and people at risk of homelessness or social isolation cope with the concurrent impacts of Brexit, coronavirus and the winter weather.

"The UK Government last week announced it was giving an additional £400m of post transition support to Northern Ireland to spend on Brexit and Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has now written to the Chancellor demanding to know whether a proportionate, fair and equitable level of funds will also be made available to Scotland.

"We will continue to do everything we can to mitigate against the damaging consequences of the end of the transition period, but we simply cannot avert every negative consequence of no deal or ‘low deal’."