Nicola Sturgeon urges Theresa May to ensure UK's proceeds of growth are shared more fairly and evenly
NICOLA Sturgeon will today urge the UK Government to use its key economic statement this autumn to ensure the proceeds of growth are shared more fairly and so help tackle the feelings of powerlessness and disillusionment that helped produce the Brexit vote.
The First Minister’s call to Theresa May comes in a keynote speech to the Institute of Directors’ annual convention in London and follows an assertion by the Prime Minister that the UK’s decision to leave the European would enhance rather than diminish Scotland’s status.
Ms Sturgeon, addressing an audience of 2,000 business leaders at the Royal Albert Hall, will argue that the stark inequalities experienced in communities across the UK were part of the reason many had voted to leave.
“I’m very proud of the fact that Scotland voted so strongly to remain in the European Union but I can’t ignore the fact that even in Scotland, a million people voted to leave. They did not think the European Union benefited them; they did not see advantages from free trade and free movement,” the FM will say.
“In part, Brexit was a product of a sense of disenfranchisement and disillusionment. It was borne of inequality, of feelings of powerlessness; of austerity budgets, which hurt the public services and social safety nets that so many people depend on.”
Ms Sturgeon will insist one consequence of the referendum must be to create a new effort – “which needs to be given real substance in the UK Government’s autumn statement” – to ensure the benefits of growth, of globalisation, are more fairly distributed.
“The UK Government has suffered one of its most significant policy reversals in generations; it can no longer ignore the social and economic cost of inequality and the impact of its misguided commitment to austerity,” Ms Sturgeon will say.
But the Prime Minister has insisted there should be “no doubt; we will get a deal that works for us all”.
Her declaration on Brexit comes in an article Mrs May has written for Holyrood magazine ahead of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham next week.
The PM stresses: “As we strike that deal, we have an exciting chance to forge a new role in the world. Scotland’s status will not be diminished by that; it will be enhanced.
“We will go out into the world with the aim of being a leader in global free trade, one that makes the most of our advantages, from the financial expertise of Edinburgh to the shipbuilding prowess of the Clyde and the globally renowned food and drink produce of Scotland’s countryside.”
Mrs May insists the Union that matters most to Scotland’s future is the one not with Brussels but that with the rest of the UK and that Scotland was able to weather the slump in the oil price because of the UK’s broad shoulders.
“Tax revenues from the North Sea collapsed but funding for Scottish public services remained unscathed. That is how our Union works; we share each other’s successes when times are good and shoulder each other’s burdens when times are tough,” adds Mrs May.
Willie Rennie for the Scottish Liberal Democrat said it was “laughable” for the PM to claim the Tories were the champions of the Union when it was their Brexit gamble that had “put it at risk”.
The SNP meantime accused Mrs May of “jaw-dropping hypocrisy,” noting how in June many senior Tories claimed a Leave vote would diminish the country’s power and influence, cost millions in lost jobs and investment and reflect a bad deal for Scotland. “Now they are trying to pretend that Brexit is the best thing since sliced bread,” said a party spokesman.
Today, a chief Brexiteer, Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, is due to give a keynote speech to the World Trade Organisation in Switzerland but has been warned by Labour’s Pat McFadden not to allow Britain to “sleepwalk to a hard Brexit without knowing what this would mean for the economy”.
No 10 dismissed as “speculation” reports suggesting the UK Government was now set on such a hard Brexit strategy. However, it failed to confirm that Dr Fox had cleared his speech with Downing Street beforehand.