Johnson urges renewal of ‘ties that bind UK’ ahead of Scotland visit
Boris Johnson has called for a renewal of “the ties that bind our United Kingdom” as he travels to Scotland to announce a £300 million funding pot for communities in the devolved nations.
Mr Johnson is making his first official visit north of the border since becoming Prime Minister to announce the expansion of regional Growth Deals in parts of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Conservative leader said he wants to ensure that no corner of the UK is left behind.
Speaking ahead of his visit to a military base on Monday, Mr Johnson said: “Our Union is the most successful political and economic union in history. We are a global brand and together we are safer, stronger and more prosperous.
“So as we prepare for our bright future after Brexit, it’s vital we renew the ties that bind our United Kingdom.
“I’m proud to be in Scotland today to make clear that I am a passionate believer in our great Union, and I look forward to visiting Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure that every decision I make as Prime Minister promotes and strengthens our Union.”
Number 10 has also confirmed that the Prime Minister is planning a trip to meet farmers in Wales, as well as a visit to Northern Ireland to discuss the ongoing talks to restore devolution at Stormont.
The presence of the new occupant in Downing Street and the possibility of a no-deal Brexit from the European Union have brought fresh speculation about the future of the Union.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is reviewing the timetable for a possible second vote on Scottish independence and Mr Johnson has been branded the “last prime minister of the UK” by the SNP.
Both Ms Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales, have told the PM it would be “unconscionable” for the UK to leave the EU without a deal.
Mr Johnson told the first meeting of the Cabinet on Thursday that he would be taking the title of Minister for the Union alongside that of Prime Minister – a move described by a spokesman as a statement of his commitment to strengthening the Union.
Under the latest Growth Deals plan, the funding will go towards deals in Falkirk, the Islands and Argyll and Bute in Scotland, Causeway Coast and Glens and Mid South West Northern Ireland, and Mid Wales.
It comes after the Prime Minister announced a £3.6 billion towns fund over the weekend, supporting an initial 100 towns in England.
Mr Johnson said: “As I said when I stood on the steps of Downing Street last week, it is time that we unleashed the productive power not just of London and the South East but of every corner of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“Important projects like Government’s growth deals – today backed with £300m new funding – will open up opportunities across our Union so people in every corner of the United Kingdom can realise their potential.”
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “It’s really great news that the Prime Minister is committed to ensuring that every part of Scotland benefits from UK Government Growth Deals.
“This investment will enable us to build on the success of our existing Growth Deals, which are helping to create jobs and boost local economies right across Scotland.”
A spokesman for Scotland’s finance secretary, SNP MSP Derek Mackay, said: “There is nothing new in this announcement of deals which are already under discussion and £300m for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland falls far short of what is required, when the UK Government is already lagging behind the Scottish Government’s funding of City and Growth deals by around £400 million.
“In the face of a no-deal Brexit which would push the UK and Scotland into recession and put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk, Boris Johnson appears to be fiddling while Rome burns.”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “After years of callous Tory cuts to public spending, this offer contains nothing new and seems to be little more than a political stunt from the new Prime Minister.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie added: “Boris Johnson’s promised a hard line route to a no-deal Brexit. That will horrify Remainers and many reasonable Leave voters too.”