Theresa May last night issued a heartfelt plea for Scotland to stay in the Union as she called for a “new grown-up relationship” between the nations of the UK.
Ahead of crunch Brexit talks with Nicola Sturgeon, the Prime Minister argued that the best way to make the most of EU withdrawal was for Scotland and the rest of the UK to work together.
Tomorrow’s meeting comes at a time when the Scottish and UK governments are at loggerheads over the Brexit negotiations. Last week the Brexit Secretary David Davis dismissed Sturgeon’s demands for a bespoke Scottish deal with the EU that would maintain Scotland’s links with the single market, devolve new immigration controls to Scotland and give Holyrood the ability to strike international deals.
The impasse was accompanied by the publication of Sturgeon’s draft referendum bill that could see a vote triggered before the UK leaves the EU if Sturgeon’s demands are not met.
Last night May referred to her first speech as Prime Minister in which she talked of the “precious bonds” that formed the United Kingdom.
The Prime Minister said: “When I stood upon the steps of Downing Street I made clear the importance of our great Union. Far more than mere geography brings us together – and we are much more than the sum of our parts. As we move into this new chapter, we must seize the opportunities ahead, as we will achieve far more together than we could ever do apart.
“I want Monday’s meeting to be the start of a new grown- up relationship between the devolved administrations and the UK government – one in which we all work together to forge the future for everyone in the United Kingdom.”
May will meet Sturgeon, Carwyn Jones, Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness at Downing Street at her first Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC). She will call on them to help develop an industrial strategy for the UK.
She will also call for relationships to be built on a basis of “co-operation and consensus”. From now on the JMC, which brings together devolved administration leaders with the Prime Minister, will be held more regularly – at least once every 12 months. An annual report will be compiled and the meeting will be hosted by each of the four governments on a revolving basis.
Last night Michael Russell, Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe, warned the Scottish Government was increasingly concerned about the prospect of a “hard Brexit” and called for Scotland to be an “equal partner”. He said: “The UK government needs to understand there is a triple mandate to maintain Scotland’s relationship with, and place in, Europe.
“Four months on from the referendum, we have yet to see a proposal from them on how the views of people in Scotland will be taken into account. The Scottish Government is becoming increasingly concerned that the UK is heading for a hard Brexit, with all the damage that will bring to the Scottish and UK economies.
“The UK government must use the time before triggering Article 50 to engage properly with all the devolved administrations and show that they are willing and able to treat Scotland as an equal partner.”