Theresa May: Donald Dewar's vision for devolution continues to guide the UK Government's approach
The Prime Minister writes for Holyrood ahead of the Conservative Party conference
Theresa May - image credit: PA
When Conservatives gather in Manchester for our UK party conference, we will welcome the largest contingent of Scottish Conservative MPs for over thirty years. In seats across Scotland at this year’s general election, voters chose Scottish Conservatives to be the voice for their communities and champions of Scotland’s place within our union of nations. These new members are already making their presence felt in the Commons chamber, making a positive contribution and challenging the SNP’s divisive grievance politics.
Under Ruth Davidson’s leadership, our party in Scotland has been rejuvenated, and a record number of Conservative MPs, MSPs and councillors are serving the people of Scotland. I am proud of their success and proud to lead a Conservative and Unionist government at Westminster. Right from the start of my premiership, I have made strengthening our union a priority for my government. The unionism I believe in speaks to our affections and loyalties. It inspires us to face challenges together and pool our shared resources to tackle them, just as we also share in the successes which our combined talents can achieve.
As the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, and prepares to chart a new course in the world, my vision is of a stronger and fairer Britain – a country which works in the interests not of a privileged few, but of every single one of us in all parts of the United Kingdom. That was the ambitious agenda I set out when I became Prime Minister, and it is the one which I am determined to deliver.
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To build that stronger and fairer country, we need to ensure that economic prosperity is spread across the whole UK. So our industrial strategy will support growth in the key sectors of our economy across every community. This is a truly UK-wide strategy, and we are working with Scottish businesses and the Scottish Government to enable Scotland’s full potential to be realised. As the new Type 26 frigates being built on the Clyde sustain high-quality jobs for a generation, our National Shipbuilding Strategy will help breathe new life into a sector in which Scotland leads the world. We will also continue to support the vital oil and gas sector, as it continues to make the most of the North Sea’s potential and develops a decommissioning supply chain which can be exported around the world.
As well as this positive action to help our whole economy thrive, I also want to ensure that our economy works better for ordinary working people. We have already introduced the National Living Wage, which gave a pay rise to tens of thousands of workers in Scotland. Our responsible management of the economy since 2010 has helped almost 240,000 more people in Scotland into employment and our changes to the personal allowance mean that more than 110,000 people in Scotland no longer have any income tax taken off their wages.
This summer, Matthew Taylor released the findings of his review into our changing jobs market across the UK. I agree with the review’s recommendation that all work should be decent and fairly rewarded. I am determined that as we leave the EU, we will protect and enhance the rights of workers across the United Kingdom. And reforms I have announced to corporate governance will give workers and shareholders a stronger voice and incentivise our great businesses to make the right long-term decisions for the future.
In many of the most important domestic policy areas it is the Scottish Government which has responsibility for delivering improvements in Scotland. Alongside full control of matters like education, health, policing, justice and local government, the Scottish Government now has major new powers over welfare and taxation. Conservative legislation delivered the recommendations of the all-party Smith Commission in full and made the Scottish Parliament one of the most powerful devolved legislatures in the world. We now see an institution transformed, with the enhanced powers it needs to improve the lives of people in Scotland.
I am clear that as powers return from Brussels, more decision-making power will be in the hands of the Scottish Parliament and the other devolved administrations. I also have a responsibility as UK Prime Minister to ensure that we do nothing to damage the United Kingdom’s internal market, on which our shared prosperity as a country depends. There has already been an unprecedented level of engagement between the UK Government and colleagues in Holyrood, Cardiff Bay and Stormont as we work to get this right, and I am determined that this close engagement will continue.
Twenty years ago, Donald Dewar wrote in the foreword to the white paper on devolution: “The Government’s aim is a fair and just settlement for Scotland within the framework of the United Kingdom – a settlement which will be good for Scotland and the United Kingdom.” That remains the guiding principle for the UK Government today. I am confident that together we can build a stronger and fairer United Kingdom in the years ahead – a twenty-first century union which works for all its citizens.
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