Michael Gove has denied that the UK Government acts like an “economic XL bully dog” in Scotland as he defended his administration’s controversial strategy of spending in devolved policy areas.

The UK Government’s Levelling Up Secretary appeared in front of Holyrood’s Finance Committee, where he was grilled over the levelling up strategy where former EU funds in devolved areas are spent by UK ministers on their priorities instead of local authorities or the devolved Scottish Government.

The Scottish Government has repeatedly criticised the UK Government for eroding devolution for spending in areas that are devolved to Holyrood, particularly since Brexit fund were replaced.

Mr Gove was accused by Labour MSP Michael Marra of favouring allocating funding in constituencies the Tories are defending at this year’s general election “in the absence of a published criteria”.

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The Tory minister warned that “all sorts of allegations are often flung”.

He added: “There’s no electoral benefit for the Conservative party. There’s a benefit for the communities concerned and the whole United Kingdom.

“The argument is sometimes made that the UK Government careers around like some sort of economic XL bully dog, deciding what it will do in Scotland, willy nilly.

“In fact, the reality is partnership with the Scottish Government.”

Drawing comparison with SNP Finance Secretary Shona Robison’s squeezed budget, Mr Gove said “there will be some quite complex trade-offs that her and her team will have to undertake” and “get the right tax mix that she sees fit”.

He added: “I would much prefer to have a longer-term approach throughout. I’m sure she like me would like to be in a position where we have a longer-term framework.”

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Mr Gove stressed that the “overwhelming majority of spending” in Scotland “is within the control of the Scottish Government”.

The minister told MSPs that he “would love to be able to help and support the Scottish Government in areas like education”, but insisted that he would always “”respect” devolution.

Mr Gove added that “it’s never the case that we impose spending”, adding that the levelling up arrangement is “a partnership for good”.

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But Scottish Greens finance spokesperson, Ross Greer, hit back at Mr Gove, telling him it was “not a partnership of equals”.

He added that the “vast majority of people in Scotland do not think you should be the ones doing that if it’s in a devolved area”.

Mr Greer claimed the public would “prefer you give that money” to the Scottish Parliament or local authorities to spend as they see fit.

The Green MSP also hit out at Mr Gove for his comments over the Scottish Government only working with one-year revenue budgets, warning the minister that “your government has the power to give multi-year settlements”.