UNION Jack flags will be displayed on roads, bridges and other publicly funded infrastructure projects throughout Britain under government plans which may be seen as provocative by supporters of Scottish independence.
Plaques featuring the union flag alongside the message “Funded by UK Government” will “proudly adorn infrastructure investments from roads in Cornwall to broadband in Caithness”, ministers will announce today.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said it was important to “recognise the contribution of the UK taxpayer”.
A similar scheme is used by the European Union for projects it has funded and Scottish Government branding can also be seen on some projects it has funded.
But Scottish Nationalists are likely to see the plaques as a deliberate attempt to shore up support for the Union.
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Following last year’s Scottish independence referendum, in which 45 per cent backed a breakaway from the Union, SNP has seen its membership and support soar.
The Treasury last night denied that the new branding was related to the referendum.
However, a senior Downing Street source contradicted that, suggesting it was “partly” related.
The source said: “It is good for the people of Scotland to see they are being looked after by two governments.”
Another source close to Mr Alexander added: “Very often, large scale projects are delivered by private contractors so it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that they are being paid for by taxpayers.
“Devolved administrations are responsible for significant amounts of infrastructure and are obviously free to badge any projects they fund as they see fit.”
With voters in Scotland set to play a decisive role in May’s general election, the plaques could be seen as a move to counter the Nationalist surge.
However, in the short term the plaques will only appear on broadband exchange boxes with superfast broadband paid for by the UK government. The first ones will be seen in Caithness, a Lib Dem constituency under threat from the SNP surge.
Mr Alexander said: “I’ve prioritised infrastructure in this government because only long-term investments will support UK businesses and get the public finances and economy on a firm footing.
“It’s only right that we recognise the contribution of the UK taxpayer in supporting this economic growth, which is why I’m delighted to launch these Union Jack plaques, which will proudly adorn infrastructure investments from roads in Cornwall to broadband in Caithness.”
But SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie described the plaques as a “silly gimmick” which did not disguise the coalition’s cuts to overall infrastructure spending and Scotland’s capital budget.
He said: “Putting a sticker on projects is a silly gimmick by Danny Alexander and his Tory bosses, which can’t cover over the fact that his government at Westminster has slashed infrastructure spending – destroying jobs and delaying economic recovery – including cutting Scotland’s capital budget by a quarter.
“Despite this, the Scottish Government is delivering over £11 billion of investment over the three years to 2015-16.