PM heads to Scotland
Johnson backs ‘global brand Britain’ with £300m funding pledge
Pledge: Boris Johnson heads to Scotland with promise of more money
Boris Johnson will promote the UK as a “global brand” and announce a new growth deal backed with £300 million during his first visit to Scotland as Prime Minister.
The funding will be spread across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, though the Scottish Government claimed there was nothing new in the announcement that was not already under discussion.
Mr Johnson will visit a Scottish military base on Monday and will outline how the money will be allocated. It follows his commitment to provide more police officers in England and Wales, a £3.6bn towns fund and more investment in rail infrastructure between Manchester and Leeds.
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.
The prime minister also plans to go to Wales to meet members of its farming community and Northern Ireland to discuss ongoing talks to restore devolution at Stormont.
In Scotland he is expected to say: “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.”
His attempt to unite the nation comes against growing divisions over his No Deal planning. Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said she would not back his plans for a No Deal Brexit.
She said: “When I was debating against the pro-Brexit side in 2016, I don’t remember anybody saying we should crash out of the EU with no arrangements in place to help maintain the vital trade that flows uninterrupted between Britain and the European Union.
“I don’t think the government should pursue a No Deal Brexit and, if it comes to it, I won’t support it.”
She said she had confirmed her position to Mr Johnson when the pair spoke by telephone last week.
Michael Gove, who was appointed to a role of preparing for No Deal has said that it is now government policy, though all ministers agree that the preference is for Britain to agree a deal with the EU.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the policy as “disgraceful”. 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 is expected to focus his visits to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on the domestic agenda. “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,” he will say.
“Important projects like the 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: “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 spokesperson for Scottish Government Finance Secretary Derek MacKay said: “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.
“Investment in Scotland is always welcome, but on top of delivering on this existing commitment the new Prime Minister must honour his new found belief in the Barnett formula by transferring a full share of the £3.6bn announced for towns in England to the Scottish Government, further funding for No Deal planning as well as the £160m of farming funding that has been withheld, a fair share of the funds given to the DUP to prop up the UK Government and the outstanding £175m of Police and Fire VAT charges that have yet to be returned.
“If Mr Johnson thinks he can win over Scotland with recycled and underfunded spending plans he has a lot to learn in his new role.”
Jonathan Reynolds, Labour’s Shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury, said: “This is nowhere near enough to make up for almost a decade of austerity and a drop in the ocean compared to the extra funding Scotland and the rest of the UK will benefit from under Labour.
“With one in four children in Scotland living in poverty, the time for tinkering at the edges like this is over.”
UPDATE 29th: Mr Johnson, did not hold any public events during his visit to Scotland, but met Ms Davidson, saying: “I have a very good relationship with Ruth and I look forward to meeting her in a few hours.
“I’m with Ruth very much. She has been a fantastic leader of the Scottish Conservatives. I’m lost in admiration of what she has achieved – I’m a massive fan of the way she has taken the argument to those who would destroy our union and constitution and damage a global brand that is loved and admired and recognised around the world.”
He was also due to meet Ms Sturgeon at Bute House.
During a visit to the Faslane nuclear submarine base, he said he was “not aiming for a no deal Brexit”. He told reporters: “What we want is to get a deal. I have had some interesting conversations with our European partners. I’ve talked to Jean Claude [Junker] and Angela Merkel and I’m reaching out today to Leo Varadkar and I’ve had a good conversation with Emmanuel Macron.
“The feeling is yes, there’s no change in their position, but it’s very positive and they all know where we are. We can’t accept the backstop it’s been thrown out three times, it won’t work, and the Withdrawal Agreement as it stands is dead but there’s ample scope to do a new and better deal and that’s what Ruth and I want to achieve.
“I’m confident that we will get a deal, but it’s also right that we prepare for no deal.”