UK authorities to focus on cash in Scotland to counter independence drive

A Scottish flag flies next to the British Union Jack flag in front of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, April 24, 2019. REUTERS / Russell Cheyne

The Scottish businesswoman Marie Macklin voted for independence seven years ago. Now she doesn’t see it as a priority.

As the Scottish National Party (SNP) pushes for a second referendum after another election victory this month, Macklin believes economic recovery is the real priority, especially for the fate of their struggling Scottish hometown, Kilmarnock.

In this regard, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s administration makes a difference.

“I’ve seen a strategic change,” said Macklin, who quickly secured UK government funding to train 200 apprentices for their HALO urban renewal project in Kilmarnock, a deprived SNP stronghold in Scotland.

She has fought for 12 years to raise government funding for her £ 89 million ($ 89 million) HALO Kilmarnock project, a redevelopment of the home of Scottish whiskey giant Johnnie Walker, which owns the 23-acre site in Cyber ​​and digital learning transforms facility at its hub for business and innovation.

She welcomes the funding of her plans to create a “digital army of young people” who once received social benefits as part of a change of direction to support communities.

When asked if the funding was a ploy to buy votes, she is apolitical and says she is focused on helping her community.

“When you say, do you do this to get votes? Don’t all politicians do that?”

Although the SNP triumphed in the Scottish general election, Conservatives gained ground among voters in the region.

It’s a low base, but according to two sources close to making decisions on the government’s Scotland strategy, the government is hoping to build on it, including through targeted project funding.

Controversial bill

Scotland, a nation of nearly 5.5 million people, has long been a problem for the Conservative government, especially Johnson, whose push for Brexit has only fueled hostility towards his government in Westminster, which is hundreds of miles away.

He has virtually no personal relationship with the SNP’s Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon, conservative sources say, and she was aware that winning this month’s election only fueled the quest for independence.

Johnson himself is unpopular with many Scots who consider him the epitome of the English upper class elite, and he was largely kept at a distance in the campaign for the Scottish Parliament, in which parties for independence took a majority of the seats.

But he defends himself. In the run-up to the elections, his government advocated investing in Scotland and made a series of announcements in March highlighting the more than £ 800 million newly designated funding.

Aside from government programs to protect jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the apprenticeship system, ministers hope to move forward with a law that emerged from another “independence” line: Britain’s division from the European Union.

The Single Market Act, which came into force in December 2020, once gave Great Britain the opportunity to suspend its divorce treaty previously agreed with the EU, which infuriated Brussels and was condemned by critics as a betrayal of international law.

After the separation is complete, provisions of the law that were overlooked in the Brexit series will be used to try to hold the UK together so that London can essentially bypass the Scottish government by allowing the government to put projects into the Infrastructure, education, finance directly. Culture and sport.

The government refers to its £ 4.8 billion leveling-up fund over four years, with at least £ 800 million earmarked for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or its £ 220 million Community Renewal Fund for the UK, the topping up existing EU funding to pave the way for a new UK fund for shared prosperity.

This will replace the funds provided by the EU, the government says, adding that decisions about where to invest money are made at “the UK level, not Brussels”.

This has led to cries of opposition at the SNP, who see it as little more than a takeover of power. This would undermine two decades of decentralization, which gives the Scottish Government and Parliament more decision-making power in certain areas and a cut from what it has received from the EU, it said.

But it also represents a challenge for the SNP, which is pushing for a new independence referendum as soon as possible after the coronavirus pandemic. The SNP doesn’t want to be seen refusing money for parts of Scotland just because the funding comes from Westminster.

“They believe that plastering union flags will make a difference. They will obviously be able to do a lot of publicity.” Oh, aren’t we generous, we gave this to you? “Said Philippa Whitford, the SNP legislature in the Westminster Parliament for nearby Central Ayrshire.

“So it’s all about captivating people, but in the long run, people value decentralization.”

The government denies that the act is a takeover. Alister Jack, the UK Scottish Secretary, said this month: “We needed this legislation to protect Scottish businesses and Scottish jobs.”

MISSING PARTS

The dispute, however, underscores the difficulty the UK government will face in building its Scotland strategy – applying too much pressure and reinforcing the desire of some Scots to push for independence. Polls show that Scots split more or less equally for or against independence.

So far, the government has been largely silent about what other tools it is likely to use. Johnson chose a team of advisors just last month when Johnson was leading the union protection team in Sue Gray, a former Downing Street ethics commander.

You and Senior Minister Michael Gove are seen as instrumental in drawing up the next steps in the strategy beyond the broader drive to tackle inequality across the UK.

“I would argue that there has to be a great social, cultural piece that shows the positive side of British identity,” said Luke Graham, a former advisor to Scotland on Downing Street.

For Macklin, it pays to get the government’s ear if it means the UK government is pouring funds directly into the private sector, helping the communities.

She would also see the creation of a joint UK strategy involving business leaders to aid recovery from COVID and meet government environmental goals.

“I don’t care who gets the recognition for this … regeneration project, which was realized after 12 years. It was a lot of sweat and tears. But in the end the community won.”

($ 1 = 0.7053 pounds)

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