Why the Queen's Speech promised to unite the UK, not separate it - Alister Jack

The tragic and devastating impacts of the pandemic mean securing a long and lasting recovery must be our overriding priority.

That’s why boosting the economy creating Scottish jobs is right at the heart of the UK Government’s legislative programme.

Just as the UK Government supported Scottish jobs during the pandemic through multi-billion pound initiatives like the furlough scheme, and saved lives with the hugely successful vaccination programme, we will now drive the recovery in a way which supports all parts of the United Kingdom.

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Scotland Secretary Alister Jack arrives at Downing Street for a Cabinet meeting. Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images

The Queen’s Speech promises more investment directly to Scottish communities, as well as measures to boost global trading opportunities for Scotland’s exporters.

In total, the UK Government aims to pass 30 bills which will help us to build back better from the pandemic in Scotland. As the long process of recovery begins, we are committed to levelling up right across the UK, ensuring that no communities are left behind in the months and years ahead.

Scotland’s unrivalled reputation for innovation and scientific expertise will be enhanced by increased support to our world-leading research and development programmes, through the creation of a £800 million Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA).

The agency will stimulate and encourage high risk, high reward projects as overall UK expenditure on research and development rises to £22 billion.

Speedy and reliable digital communications are essential for modern business and we know that in parts of Scotland provision is still not good enough. The Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill will extend 5G mobile coverage and gigabit capable broadband.

The Professional Qualifications Bill will create opportunities for people from the UK to deliver services in overseas markets.

Scotland will benefit from the Freeports programme, which will create highly skilled jobs and investment opportunities.

Paving the way for that initiative is the National Insurance Contributions Bill, which will provide relief for Freeport employers. And Scotland’s defence sector will benefit from the Armed Forces Bill – supporting the biggest investment in UK defence since the Cold War.

Transport infrastructure projects will feed into the Union Connectivity Review to improve links and enhance the vital economic and social ties across the UK.

Not only will we be building back better, but we will also be building back greener with the Environment Bill setting ambitions green targets ahead of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference coming to Glasgow later this year.

The Prime Minister has outlined his ambition for the low carbon economy supporting up to two million green jobs by 2030. Key to that will be the £27m earmarked from the Aberdeen Energy Transition Zone, which will support economic activity in the north-east as demand for fossil fuels falls.

Recovering from the pandemic is not something that can be done in isolation. Crucial to our success will be collaboration across the UK.

It is essential that the UK Government and devolved Scottish Government co-operate for the greater good.

The blueprint for Scotland’s two governments working together already exists.

The UK Government has injected £1.5bn in our city and growth deals, which have brought jobs and investment to communities across Scotland thanks to a collaborative approach between governments, councils and universities.

We will further empower communities through a series of funding streams. Our £220m Community Renewal Fund will help local areas prepare for the introduction of the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund next year.

The Shared Prosperity Fund will enable local areas across the UK to devise solutions that target their own particular challenges. In addition, our £4.8bn UK Levelling Up fund will regenerate town centres, improve transport and fund other exciting projects.

Others may want to talk of separation, but our entire focus is on shared recovery.

Only by pulling together, uniting, and drawing on the strength of our United Kingdom can we fulfil Scotland’s potential and bounce back from the pandemic.

- Alister Jack is the Secretary of State for Scotland


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