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May urges successor to prioritise defence of the union

Theresa May in Stirling

May in Stirling: defence of the union


 

Theresa May has urged her successor to make the defence of the union a priority.as she used her final visit to Scotland as Prime Minister to announce a review into UK government departments to ensure they work in the best interests of devolution.

She confirmed that the review of government operations will be chaired by Lord Dunlop, the former Scotland Office minister.

It will ensure that all of the UK government’s structures – including government departments – are co-operating to ensure devolution works.

Mrs May told party supporters in Stirling: “The job of prime minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland brings with it privileges and responsibilities which you only really feel once the black door closes behind you.

“One of the first and greatest is the duty you owe to strengthen the union. To govern on behalf of the whole United Kingdom. To respect the identities of every citizen of the UK – English and Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish.

“And to ensure that we can go on facing the future together, overcoming obstacles together, and achieving more together than we ever could apart – a union of nations and people.”




On the review by Lord Dunlop, she said: “We need to work more cleverly, more creatively and more coherently as a UK government fully committed to a modern, 21st century union in the context of a stable and permanent devolution settlement to strengthen the glue that holds our union together.

“There have been several reviews into how devolution works. But we have never thought deeply about how we make the Union work – how we ensure that as we fully respect devolution, we do not forget the UK government’s fundamental duty to be a government for the whole United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

“Of course it will be for my successor to respond to his recommendations, and I am delighted that both candidates are supportive of the review.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the Prime Minister’s plan as a “desperate act by a Prime Minister who has shown respect for the Scottish Parliament”

Sturgeon desperate tweet

However, Mrs May’s visit, on the eve of a Tory leadership hustings on Friday, was focused mainly on the challenges faced by the devolved nations and regions by a no-deal Brexit. Number 10 confirmed that there will not be a review of devolved matters,

It was revealed earlier this month that a new office development in Edinburgh for UK government departments will include the first ever Cabinet Room for use by visiting Westminster ministers.

On Sunday Tory leadership contender Boris Johnson said he would set up a unit in Number 10 to “sense-test and stress-test” every policy for its impact on the union.

He said the next prime minister should be “minister for the union”, a position which was “cost-free but symbolically significant”.




His rival Jeremy Hunt said he would ensure the UK left the EU in a way that protects the union. Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt are both due to appear at a hustings event in Scotland on Friday.

Ian Murray, Labour MP for Edinburgh South, said: “Theresa May and the Tories have put the union at risk with their reckless Brexit plan.

“The Brexiteers were repeatedly warned before the EU referendum that a Leave vote would put the UK under strain, but they carried on regardless. The Tories simply can’t be trusted to stand up for the Union.

“Scotland deserves better than a nationalist government in Westminster and a nationalist government in Holyrood, both trying to divide people. It’s time we came together and fought to remain in both the UK and the EU.”

SNP calls for poll to be published

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard has renewed pressure on the Tory government to publish details of its reported taxpayer-funded polling into support for independence.

It was reported in May that the Cabinet Office had directed leading polling firm Ipsos MORI to carry out work “about the general public’s perception of the state of the Union.”

However since then, the Conservatives have failed to reveal details despite Mr Sheppard’s letters, parliamentary questions and Freedom of Information (FOI) request asking for its results to be published.

Mr Sheppard criticised the Cabinet Office for funding the secret poll through the public purse – rather than Tory party funds – and warned that it would be unacceptable if the Tories continued to hide the results from the public.




The call for clarity comes off the back of research published on the 23 June that found 53% of voters in Scotland would back independence if Boris Johnson, the front-runner in the Tory leadership race, became Prime Minister.

In response to Mr Sheppard’s FOI request, the Cabinet Office told Sheppard the report would not be supplied as “it relates to the formulation or development of government policy” and that “the balance of the public interest favours withholding this information.”

Tommy Sheppard MP, the SNP’s Cabinet Office spokesperson, commented: “With polls showing that support for independence is on the rise, it is unsurprising that the Cabinet Office conducted secret polling into public attitudes towards independence and are now running scared.

“After repeatedly failing to answer my parliamentary questions on details of the secret polling and rejecting my FOI, it is time the Cabinet Office published the results of the poll without delay.

“The fact that the Tories are so desperate to hide these results speaks volumes. They know that the growing threat of a disastrous no-deal Brexit is showing people day-by-day that independence is the only way to safeguard Scotland’s economy, jobs and public services.”

Call to boycott Citizens Assembly

Scotland in Union has written to its supporters urging them not to participate in the Scottish Government’s Citizens’ Assembly, “unless evidence emerges that the SNP is prepared to act in good faith”.

Chief executive Pamela Nash said: “We cannot see why the Scottish public should have any faith in this process or, indeed, take part’, in the wake of comments from senior SNP figures.

Joanna Cherry MP has referred to the Citizens’ Assembly as part of the process of preparing voters in Scotland for a second independence referendum, said Ms Nash.



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