The United Kingdom is the most prized asset of Parliament. When I was elected I pledged to protect the Union between Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, which is undoubtedly the most successful union of countries to ever exist. It is important that we continue to legislate to preserve the Union and keep updating policies to reflect the changing nature of society.
The UK Government, the Scottish Government and all the devolved Administrations must work very closely together. It is a concern that there appears to be chasms that divide the UK Government and the devolved Administrations, which of course are controlled by other parties. It is time for us Unionists to engage with other administrations on a deeper level. It is time for us to seek a future that will combat nationalism and constantly rejuvenate the Union so that it will endure. This can happen through the creation of a new minister: the Minister for the Union. This minister would be responsible for relations between the constituent countries of the UK.
I want the Union to work better. People in Stirling pay their taxes, and now, in many cases, they pay significantly more tax than any other part of the United Kingdom. They pay their share of the cost of Whitehall Departments. They get the same protection from the armed forces. They get the same help and support abroad when they visit a consulate or an embassy. But when it comes to some of the other Union Departments, the support becomes less clear. We should make it clear by renaming Ministries and Departments that serve England only as such—for example, “the Department for Health and Social Care for England”. Ministries serving the whole of the United Kingdom should, as a matter of course, be asking what policy implications there are for Scotland, for Wales, for Northern Ireland and for the regions of England.
I believe passionately in local democracy, and the divergence that comes through local democracy, but I do not hold with divergence for the sake of it. Of course we need locally tailored policy solutions to meet local conditions, but divergence that gives the Union strength is when it is for a good reason. We have a Scottish legal system that is tailored to our country. We have an education system that is tailored to our country: it is ours. All these things provide the strength whereby Scotland can have solutions for its own systems, its unique history, and the needs of its people.
But in some areas, divergence is pointless—for example, having a separate card for public transport in England and in Scotland, coming up with two different systems for deposit returns, or dismantling the British Transport Police simply because it has “British” in its name. These differences are not about public policy necessities—they are about pulling Scotland apart from the rest of the United Kingdom to become separate.
It is understandable in Scotland, where the political climate can sometimes be quite poisonous, for people to feel intimidated and harassed, rather than to engage in debate. Let us work together to get the message out there, that we need a cohesive and unified position to create a harmonised United Kingdom which can benefit Scotland.