Damian Green: Instead of a ‘power grab’ we will strengthen Holyrood

After four Scottish UK City Deals, discussions are under way over further deals for Tayside Cities and Stirling. Picture: Ian Rutherford
After four Scottish UK City Deals, discussions are under way over further deals for Tayside Cities and Stirling. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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After we leave the EU the Scottish Parliament will have more responsibilities, says Theresa May’s deputy Damian Green

The UK Government remains committed to unlocking the full potential of our brilliant cities, nowhere more so than in Scotland. This is why I am so pleased to be in Edinburgh today to announce the UK Government’s £300 million investment as part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal. This is the fourth Scottish UK City Deal, in partnership with the Scottish Government, which we fully expect to boost the economy of Edinburgh and the whole of South East Scotland for decades to come.

Today’s move brings the UK Government’s investment in City Deals in Scotland so far to more than £1 billion. And with possible deals in Tay Cities and Stirling under discussion, plus the Conservative Party manifesto commitment to a Borderlands growth deal, we are determined to continue our investment in Scotland’s cities and regions.

I am particularly pleased that the Edinburgh City Deal will focus on investing in new technology and maximising its economic value. It will build on Edinburgh’s strong track record in innovation and new technology, with an emphasis on creating prosperity and jobs in this sector.Edinburgh’s world class universities are at the heart of this City Deal, with investment in cutting edge research at Heriot-Watt, Queen Margaret and Edinburgh Universities, exploring innovation in space, health sciences, agri-tech and food and drink. It is this kind of investment in innovation and research that will ensure that Scotland is well placed to compete and succeed in the technologies of the future.

But this is not this Government’s only commitment to Scotland. This morning my colleague the Defence Secretary is on the Clyde to announce the start of steel cutting for the new Royal Navy Type 26 Frigates. The £3.7 billion contract, signed earlier this year, will secure the long-term future of Scottish shipbuilding on Clydeside, bringing thousands of skilled jobs to Scotland, both in the shipyards and in the supply chain.

Today’s announcements are a very visible sign that this Government will continue to invest in Scotland’s people, its economy and its infrastructure. I cannot overstate the importance of our commitment and this investment, particularly as we face the coming challenge of Brexit.

The talks currently taking place in Brussels on the future relationship between the UK and the EU are the most significant political negotiation for a generation, and we are determined to get them right.

From the start of the EU withdrawal process we have sought to ensure a close and constructive relationship between the UK and Scottish Governments. I know that as we have these discussions we will not agree on everything. But it is my ambition, and that of the Prime Minister, to work closely with the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to deliver a Brexit that works for the whole of the United Kingdom.

Last week, Scotland’s First Minister claimed that the UK Government’s legislation to convert EU law into UK law was a “power grab” and dangerous for devolution and the Scottish economy. No-one should be in any doubt that the intention of the UK government is to ensure that the spirit and the letter of the devolution settlement is respected in the course of the repatriation of powers. The bottom line is that after we leave the EU, the Scottish Parliament will have more powers and responsibilities than it has today.

Leaving the EU means that decisions currently made in Brussels will be made by our own Governments. So when we leave, decision-making will sit closer to the people of the United Kingdom than ever before, ultimately strengthening the UK’s system of devolved government.

But we need to make sure that as we do this, we do not take decisions that disrupt our economy or our ability to trade internationally. Scottish business exports four times as much to the rest of the UK than to the EU. We - and the Scottish Government - recognise that after we leave, there will be a need to develop ‘common frameworks’ to protect the United Kingdom’s single market.

For example, we want to make sure that labelling requirements don’t prevent a jam producer in Dundee selling to cafes in Newcastle. Our guiding principle must be to ensure that there are no new barriers to living and doing business within the United Kingdom.

It is critical that we understand the views of Scottish people, businesses and stakeholders as we take this work forward. Discussions have already started and will continue over the summer and into the autumn.

As the Prime Minister has made clear, we want the United Kingdom to emerge from this period of change stronger, fairer, and more outward-looking than ever before. I also hope that through enhancing the powers of our devolved governments we can strengthen the bonds of our Union.

Damian Green is First Secretary of State and Minister for the Cabinet Office