Boris Johnson needs to know he is responsible for the Union - Stephen Kerr
The Union is now Mr Johnson’s responsibility and he must act urgently to preserve it, says Stephen Kerr MP
During this leadership election I supported Michael Gove. Following his departure from the contest I kept my own counsel, but today I congratulate Boris Johnson on achieving the highest public office in the United Kingdom
He must now be committed to the idea of reform of the United Kingdom government’s structures to strengthen the Union. We need to strengthen Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom by getting Whitehall to work better with devolved governments across the UK.
I was pleased to welcome Theresa May to Stirling to announce Andrew Dunlop’s review into how Whitehall interacts with the Scottish Government. Twenty years of devolution have been great for Scotland, but we need institutions in Westminster to be updated to reflect Scotland’s place in the UK.
We need action on this agenda. Unionists need to get serious about reform.
My first recommendation is the prime minister should commit to following through on the recommendations that Lord Dunlop will make on his review of Whitehall.
Secondly, there remains a powerful case for a Department of the United Kingdom, led by a First Secretary of State for the Union. This department would test every UK government action based on its impact across the Union, build cohesion and co-operation across governments and ensure Whitehall has a better understanding of devolution and devolved issues.
Thirdly, we need stronger intergovernmental and inter-parliamentary relationships to replace the confrontation we see today with collaboration on crossover areas of public policy. The new prime minister would do well to work cross-party on this agenda.
Fourthly, the departments of the UK government with a Union-wide remit must engage with stakeholders in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland directly. They should not rely on territorial departments or delegate this work to the devolved administrations.
Fifthly, there should be primary legislation to enable direct UK government spending in devolved areas in partnership with devolved administrations.
Sixthly, the government should bring forward detailed proposals to replace EU regional funding. This should be a UK-level fund to allow all parts of the UK to benefit and be spent in partnership with local authorities.
Finally, there must be an urgent review of “English Votes for English Laws”. This is a badly advised and unnecessary circumvention of the work of the United Kingdom parliament. The sooner it is gone, the better.
My message to Boris Johnson today is this; congratulations on being elected as our party leader and on becoming the prime minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Union is now your responsibility and you must act urgently to ensure its future. The position of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and, indeed, England within the Union must be preserved and defended.
The United Kingdom works best when we have a sense of shared endeavour, when we have co-operation and collaboration between our different nations and regions and when we realise that our similarities and shared experiences bring us together far more than they divide us.
l Stephen Kerr is the Conservative MP for Stirling