UK Government ministers should have union ‘rushing through bloodstream’, Lord Dunlop claims

UK Government ministers should have the union “rushing through their bloodstream”, Lord Dunlop has claimed.

Lord Dunlop today said ministers must have the union and devolution "rushing through their bloodstream".

The former David Cameron adviser today insisted the union did not need a department, but that every minister should be constantly thinking about it.

A former Scotland Office minister, Lord Dunlop led a report into how the union between the four nations could be strengthened, that was first commissioned by the then-prime minister Theresa May.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Appearing with the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, and the Scottish Affairs, Welsh Affairs and Northern Ireland Affairs committees this afternoon, he admitted the approach needed to change.

He said: “You don’t need a department for the union, my view is you need a government for the union.

“Every secretary of state, every minister should as I say have devolution and the union rushing through their bloodstream.

“That does require a fundamental change of culture.”

Lord Dunlop also defended Boris Johnson’s role as minister of the union and attempted reforms, but admitted he could be doing more.

He said: “I think it’s very important that the Prime Minister gives a strong lead.

“I think if there's one aspect of the package that disappoints me, it's that the role for the Prime Minister seems quite limited.

Read More

Read More
UK Government criticised for ‘disappointing’ failure to publish devolution revie...

"It’s limited to one meeting a year and a meeting he could delegate to somebody else.

“In my view the bare minimum is two meetings a year that the Prime Minister should absolutely chair because this is about building better relationships and I would regard that as one of the key tests of how seriously the government takes the job of strengthening the union.”

Lord Dunlop also told the committee the pandemic had helped make UK Government departments better because it had delivered a crash course in working with the devolved administrations.

He explained: "Over the last two decades devolution has been a major constitutional development and a lot of power has been transferred from the centre to the devolved institutions, but I think what my review found was that Whitehall hasn't really changed at all in response to that.

“I think actually it's more relevant today even than it was when it was commissioned and the reason I say that is because we have been through the whole pandemic and I think for many people a surprising thing that has occurred during the pandemic is people have become very much more aware of the realities of devolution and the importance of Governments across the United Kingdom working together.

“So something that may have taken months or years to get ingrained in those departments, they've had real life experience of actually working it out”.

The hearing also saw SNP MP Pete Wishart compare the appointment of ministers to an attack on Scotland.

He said: “What you’ve left us with is your secretary of state, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for Wales and for Scotland and we're still not sure exactly what the role is going to be for the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

“This doesn't sound so much like strength in the Union, it's also like an invasion force, but why is all this necessary to do a simple job in making sure that relationships across the UK can function effectively?”

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.