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Strengthening the Union

Volume 681: debated on Wednesday 7 October 2020

The Government have always stressed the importance of the Union. The UK is a family of nations that shares social, cultural and economic ties that, together, make us far safer, more secure and more prosperous. As we have seen throughout the covid crisis, it is the economic strength of the Union and our commitment to the sharing and pooling of resources that have supported jobs and businesses throughout Scotland.

The Government are committed to their levelling-up agenda throughout the UK, as part of their plan to unleash the power of our Union. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the UK shared prosperity fund is an opportunity for our UK Government to be more ambitious in their pursuit of spreading the benefits of being part of our Union? Will the UK Government show their funding in the same way as EU funding has been prominently displayed?

Yes, I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. Not only will the shared prosperity fund help, but thanks to the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill, the UK Government will be in the place of the EU—where the EU previously spent money in Scotland and other parts of the UK, the UK Government will do that. The Scottish National party has a serious objection to that. It is a strange ideology from the nationalists that they object to money coming from the Great British Government but are quite happy to take it from the EU.

I welcome the launch of the new UK Government trade hub in Edinburgh, which will not only strengthen the Union but help to support Scottish businesses so that they can thrive internationally. Does my right hon. Friend agree that expanding the export of world-famous Scottish products, such as Scotch whisky, will help to give our economy a much-needed boost as we recover from the coronavirus across the whole UK?

Yes, absolutely. I am pleased that we have announced a Department for International Trade hub in the new Queen Elizabeth House in Edinburgh. It will help our exporters in Scotland and build on the excellent trade deal that we have already agreed with Japan.

Darlington is the birthplace of the modern railway. Stronger railway links between Darlington and Scotland will be vital for the success of our internal market. Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the independent Union connectivity review, led by Sir Peter Hendy, which will look at how we can improve our transport infrastructure to bring our communities closer and level up access to jobs and opportunities?

I absolutely will. The Union connectivity review will explore ways to build back better. As I said, I met Sir Peter Hendy yesterday, and it is extremely disappointing—it is worth making this point again—that Transport Secretary Matheson has instructed his officials not to engage in the review, to the detriment of Scotland and her economy.