Whether you live in one of our great cities, in the heart of rural Scotland, or even if, like me, your life has taken you away from your homeland, there is so much to be proud of in 21st-century Scotland.
But not everyone has shared equally in Scotland’s success. In places with thriving commercial centres, you will find areas of deprivation and struggling high streets. Too many of our young people feel they must move away from home to get ahead in life.
This is a shared challenge right across the UK. Talent is spread equally, but opportunity isn’t.
In the white paper which the UK Government published yesterday, we set out our blueprint to overcome this generations-long challenge by uniting and levelling up our whole country.
In many areas, the UK Government will be acting as the government of the whole United Kingdom. So, the white paper sets out our plans to roll out high tech, gigabit broadband and 4G across the whole UK, with 5G coverage for most of the population.
We commit to make a major shift of research and development spending away from the south-east of England and into the rest of the UK.
The Glasgow city region will be one of the UK’s first Innovation Accelerator areas, backed by a share of £100 million of additional money, which will create a new Silicon Valley style partnership to create new opportunities.
The UK Government is already making direct investments to help level up communities across Scotland. Dumbarton town centre received £20m to transform its town centre. Falkirk is getting cash to improve its transport infrastructure to help motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.
But we cannot succeed on our own. Strong devolution means that, in Scotland, many of the policy levers we are pulling to improve lives and enhance communities in England rest are rightly in the hands of the Scottish Government. So, I want us to work together.
We have seen throughout the Covid pandemic what can be achieved. Our world-leading vaccine roll-out was the very essence of that spirit of Team UK at its best. The UK Government procured vaccines in the international market at scale. The Scottish Government and Scottish local authorities got jags into arms from Eyemouth to Stornoway.
This success should set the template for what we can achieve by working together in the future.
That is why I am asking the leaders of the devolved governments, local councils and communities to throw their weight behind levelling up.
Last month we agreed a new and strengthened way the UK Government and the devolved governments work together.
This is what devolution was meant to be all about – learning from different approaches and benefitting from each other’s successes.
People in communities across Scotland deserve better. In that, they are as one with their fellow citizens in Northern Ireland, Wales, and England. It is the responsibility of leaders of all levels of government in all parts of our country to do all we can to deliver for them. United, there is no challenge we cannot meet.