Scottish Tory MP calls for abolition of Scotland Office

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A Scottish Conservative MP has suggested doing away with the Scotland Office and replacing it with a single department covering all four nations of the UK.

Stephen Kerr, the MP for Stirling, said Whitehall departments covering the devolved nations should be replaced with a Canadian-style 'Department for Intergovernmental Affairs' to improve co-operation in delivering services and strengthen the Union.

In Canada, the department is headed by the Prime Minister and brings together federal ministers with provincial leaders to discuss issues affecting different layers of government.

Mr Kerr said Scottish Secretary David Mundell should be replaced by a "unity minister" at the head of a 'Department for the Union'.

READ MORE: Scotland Office name vanishes in Edinburgh and London
"Scottish local authorities are separated from their English counterparts, Scottish Enterprise competes with UK government agencies and systemic incompatibilities in the health service make staff transfers difficult. There is no good reason for any of this," Mr Kerr writes in an article for the Times.

"A road that needs repair, a child that needs support or a disease that needs curing is no different on either side of the border.

"Surely by working together across governments, parliaments and throughout society we can achieve much more for the good of everyone. This is the message I receive consistently from my constituents in Stirling."

Mr Kerr goes on to say that a Department for the Union could draw staff from all parts of the UK. "It would help spread good ideas and improve services where difference has driven successful innovation, and serve as a respectful place to negotiate where there are arguments to be had," he argues.

"A Department of the Union could replace existing Offices of the Secretary of State for Scotland and Wales, and the Northern Ireland Office. Non-devolved departments of the UK government could operate confidently as departments serving the whole UK.

"Wholly English departments such as health and social care, education and justice could be renamed as such to reflect their status.

"Making this significant change to government in a positive way would foster partnership and strengthen our union. By doing so we would set a foundation of partnership and joint endeavour to secure our union into the future."

The SNP has called for Mr Mundell's department to be abolished, arguing that devolution has hollowed out its functions and means it no longer represents value for money.

It was revealed this month that the department commonly known as the Scotland Office has been renamed the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland in a corporate branding shakeup, promoting itself as the 'UK Government in Scotland' in official communications.