The campaign, which is expected to be supported by billboards, radio, print adverts and social media posts, will highlight successes that the four nations of the UK have achieved together – covering areas like sport, culture, humanitarian aid and green energy.
It comes as support for independence creeps upwards, with several polls suggesting the battle for the future of Scotland is a dead heat. And it marks the start of a long lead-in to the 2021
Scottish Parliament election campaign, which Scottish Conservative sources say will be a “gloves off” fight for the future of the UK.
While the ad campaign is in its early stages, reports suggest that as much as £5m could be ploughed into the glitzy showreel for the “awesome foursome” – the nickname Boris Johnson gave to the Union during the Tory leadership election. Government sources hope to match the impact of recent SNP videos widely shared on social media.
The year-long ad blitz is expected to begin in spring, lasting until the Holyrood elections in May next year.
Scottish Tories have long-standing concerns about the lack of a positive narrative for the Union from Whitehall, with the government failing to promote the work of UK departments in Scotland.
A proposed new UK Shared Prosperity Fund is intended to inject UK government cash directly into Scottish businesses, charities and local authorities, bypassing the Scottish Government in Edinburgh.
However, a consultation on the replacement for EU Structural Funds is more than a year overdue.
Scottish Tories have also called for reform of the Scotland Office and a bigger presence for Scotland in Downing Street. But a long-awaited review of how Whitehall is set up to interact with devolution has been described as a “dud” by a senior government source before it is even published.
The Dunlop Review, carried out by former Scotland Office minister and Downing Street special adviser Andrew Dunlop, has stepped back from recommending a Department of the Union to drive policy for the devolved nations. Scottish Secretary Alister Jack is understood to have been in the frame for the post of Secretary for the Union – a position which will remain largely ceremonial as an additional title for the Prime Minister.
Appointment of a new special adviser in Number 10 to act as the lead for a “Union unit” at the heart of Johnson’s administration is also on hold until after a Cabinet reshuffle expected this week. The former Scottish Tory MP Luke Graham, who lost his Ochil and South Perthshire seat in the general election, has been tipped for the role.
A Scottish Tory source said that the party faced a battle to convince voters of the risk of giving the SNP another term in office in 2021, with the UK government firmly ruling out a second independence referendum.
“The risk is that people think it’s OK to vote SNP even if they’re calling for indyref2, because Boris will stop it,” We’re going to have to raise the stakes.” the source said.
“We’ve learned a lot from the general election campaign,” they added. “It will be gloves off in 2021.”