Promoting and Protecting the Union

Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons on 16th July 2020.

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Photo of Robin Millar Robin Millar Conservative, Aberconwy

What steps his Department is taking to promote and protect the Union.

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

This Government will never be neutral in expressing our unequivocal support for the strength of our United Kingdom. In the summer economic update last week, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced millions of pounds of additional support for businesses across the UK through his VAT cut and other measures. We have also announced an additional £8.9 billion for devolved Administrations through the Barnett formula. The Union is stronger for the contribution that all of its four nations make, and this Government will continue to support its strength.

Photo of Robin Millar Robin Millar Conservative, Aberconwy

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer. He will be aware of the support on the Conservative Benches for the Union, nowhere more so, perhaps, than in north Wales, where seven of the nine Members of Parliament are from the Conservative and Unionist party. In the recent Ditchley annual lecture, my right hon. Friend said:

“We need to be more ambitious for…North Wales.”

Will he agree to meet me and my colleagues in north Wales to hear just how ambitious I am for Aberconwy and they are for north Wales?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

Absolutely. From Ynys Môn to Wrexham, there is a team of fantastic Conservative and Unionist Members of Parliament representing the interests of north Wales with vigour and energy. I would be delighted to meet them. We need to do more to ensure that the businesses and people of north Wales get the support they need from this UK Government, working alongside the Welsh Government, to strengthen our Union.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

There is no doubt about the right hon. Gentleman’s enthusiasm for the Union, but perhaps he could answer me this. Why does he think that support for independence has now reached 54% among the Scottish people and reached a sustained majority in the past year?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

Opinion polls come and go. I am always interested in what opinion polls tell me, but I am rather more interested in real votes cast in real ballot boxes. The last time the people of Scotland were asked if they wanted to remain in the United Kingdom they decided that they did want to by a whopping 10 percentage points—facts are chiels that winna ding—and since then we have seen how the strength of the United Kingdom has supported Scotland’s economy. Indeed, I was very interested to see earlier today that one of the economic advisers to the First Minister said that the support of the UK Government would be vital to Scotland’s economic recovery.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

The right hon. Gentleman might not like opinion polls, and of course they are transitory, but let me tell him about another couple of opinion polls. Support for the Scottish National party is now at 55% and we are seeing support for independence growing month by month. He did not give an answer to this, so I will try to answer it for him and he can tell me which one of these he agrees with. Support for independence is rising because of the Government’s Brexit and the way that they are imposing on us their Brexit that, as a country, we rejected; the disrespect; the condescension; the power grab; the barely hidden contempt for our nation from his colleagues behind him on the Conservative Benches; the mistreatment of our Parliament and our democracy; and, of course, the chaotic leadership of his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Which one of those does he think is rising independence most?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

I am very grateful for that multiple-choice question from the hon. Member. It reminds me that when I sat my O-levels and multiple-choice exams when I was a schoolboy in Aberdeen, Scotland’s schools were stronger than England’s schools. Now, after 10 years of SNP Government, Scotland’s schools have fallen behind. The record of the SNP in government, I am afraid, has been one of complacency and neglect. That is why I believe we need to have a strong UK Government working alongside MSPs from every party in order to make our United Kingdom stronger than ever.