Prime Minister to lead body aimed at fostering relations between devolved UK governments
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to chair a new council aimed at overseeing and strengthening relationships between the devolved governments of the UK.
Following a review of intergovernmental relations, it has been agreed that a new council, chaired by Johnson and made up of the heads of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments, be established to “discuss issues that affect people across the UK, particularly where they cut across reserved and devolved policy, or are of shared responsibility”.
As well as the council, there will be an independent secretariat made up of civil servants seconded from all four governments that will answer equally to the UK and devolved administrations.
Scottish secretary Alister Jack said people want to see Scotland’s two governments “work together to tackle Covid and drive our recovery”, adding that that is what the new set-up is designed to do.
“Throughout the pandemic, the Scottish and UK governments have worked closely together, to keep people safe, protect public services, and support businesses and jobs in Scotland,” he said.
“This important agreement will build on that and help strengthen cooperation further - as we work together to deliver the priorities of people in Scotland on jobs, prosperity and economic recovery.”
Johnson, who is facing calls from his own MSPs to stand down over his admission that he attended a Downing Street party at the height of lockdown, added that the council would enable all UK governments to “work together to deliver for the British people”.
“When team UK pulls together in common cause, spirit and endeavour we will always be at our very best,” he said.
“We’ve shown time and time again the combined strength we have in facing off the shared challenges before us, while also seizing the opportunities ahead for the benefit of the whole United Kingdom.”
Levelling-up minister Michael Gove added that devolution has “resulted in huge benefits across the United Kingdom” and that the “landmark agreement” would “build on the incredible amount of collaboration already taking place between the UK Government and the devolved administrations”.
As well as the top-level council there will be two committees, one of which will be chaired by Gove and one of which will focus on finance issues. Beneath those will be a range of groups, led by individual departments, that will focus on specific policy areas.
Scottish Greens MSP Ross Greer said: “Boris Johnson has achieved the remarkable feet of uniting the entire Holyrood parliament in the belief that he is utterly unfit for the job. Even his own MSPs have finally had enough.
“The Scottish Tories are revolting, and it now looks like they themselves are tired of being led by an unaccountable Westminster elite who don’t give two hoots about Scotland.
“The Prime Minister’s proposed solution to this mess is to reinvent a ‘council of devolved nations’ which already exists. It’s called the Joint Ministerial Council and the reason you could be forgiven for forgetting it’s there is because Boris Johnson and his predecessors regularly refuse to let it meet. The JMC was in effect useless because of the contempt in which the UK Government holds Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The past 24 hours prove that hasn’t changed.”