Whitsun Adjournment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:15 pm on 23rd May 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative, Stirling 3:15 pm, 23rd May 2019

I welcome that intervention. In fact, that is exactly what I am saying. Speaking as a Conservative and a Unionist, I wish that we could get past all the unending and, frankly, fruitless discussions about constitutional arrangements, and talk about policies that improve the life opportunities of people in Scotland. I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman, but we need to address the issue of the governance of Scotland to be able to bridge the gap, in constitutional machinery terms, that allows the SNP the breathing space to fester the grievances that it is busy manufacturing while he and I are sitting here.

Our article goes on to say that the Department for the Union

“could be part of the constitutional jigsaw that would solve some of the problems the country will face in the future if they are not addressed. This department would be of such importance that we suggest the leader of it should be one of the five great offices of state: joining Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary. They would be supported by a group of senior ministers representing Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland.

A Department for the Union at Whitehall would be responsible for maintaining and enhancing the regulatory and governmental framework of our United Kingdom. Hearing the voices of English, Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish ministers, businesses in each sector, and civic bodies would allow for a regulatory framework which works for our whole United Kingdom. Within this framework, devolved governments would be able to adjust policies to suit the individual needs of each country of the United Kingdom whilst protecting the cohesion of the single market of one of the largest economies in the world. This department could work closely on future constitutional change and make informal arrangements such as joint ministerial committees more formal and effective. One of the SNP’s arguments for independence is that the Scottish Government is not treated with respect by the UK government. We reject that claim, but a Department for the Union would put it to bed, and would encourage a better working relationship between the two governments in the interests of all the people of Scotland.”

I am very grateful for the indulgence of the House in being able to share these ideas today.

I worry not just about our democracy, in the way that was referenced earlier, but about the fragility of the Union. I sometimes think that what Mr Sweeney said about Punch and Judy constitutional politics is replicated in this House, because some people think that the Union is something that the Scots debate, or is about the issue of a border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The fact is that we all have a vested interest in the health, wellbeing and future security of the Union. This is a time to end the division and rancour that the Scottish Government have consistently created, and to end the building of walls between people in Scotland and people in the rest of the UK. It is a time for the UK Government and this Parliament to put their shoulder to the wheel in Scotland and help to bring people together.