The Jerusalem Post

UK leadership candidates seek to work against push for Scottish independen­ce


LONDON (Reuters) – The two candidates battling to be Britain’s next prime minister vied to present themselves as defenders of Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom on Tuesday, promising more scrutiny of Scotland’s government to undermine a new push for independen­ce.

The Scottish National Party (SNP), which heads Scotland’s semiautono­mous government, wants to hold a second independen­ce referendum next year, which could rip apart the world’s fifth-biggest economy.

The bonds holding together the four countries that make up the United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – have been severely strained over the last six years by Brexit and the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Liz Truss, the foreign minister, and Rishi Sunak, a former finance minister, who are competing to replace Prime Minister Boris Johnson, set out their policies for Scotland before the only Conservati­ve Party hustings in the country on Tuesday.

Both candidates want more focus on the Scottish government’s record on health and education. Scotland has the highest rate of drug deaths in Europe, and two-thirds of the population is either obese or overweight, while a report last year said its education system was the weakest in the UK.

Truss promised to give parliament­ary privilege to members of the Scottish Parliament to allow more scrutiny of the government and said she would push to sign a trade deal with India to end long-standing 150% tariffs on Scotch whisky, the country’s biggest single product export.

“I’ll make sure that my government does everything to ensure elected representa­tives hold the devolved administra­tion to account,” she said. “As a nation we are stronger together, and the UK needs Scotland as much as Scotland needs the UK.”

However, about a quarter of Scots will be more likely to support independen­ce regardless of which Conservati­ve candidate wins, according to an opinion poll published by Survation and Diffley Partnershi­ps.

“Scotland loses” whoever wins the contest, the SNP said. It attacked the British government’s failure to deal with the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades.

The real value of the average British workers’ pay fell at the fastest rate since at least 2001, the Office for National Statistics reported Tuesday, as wage increases were outstrippe­d by rising inflation.

Voters in Scotland, which has a population of about 5.5 million, rejected independen­ce in 2014. But Scotland’s government says Britain’s departure from the European Union, which was opposed by most Scots, means the question must be put to a second vote.

Sunak said if he became prime minister, he would order senior Scottish government officials to attend annual British Parliament committee hearings and ensure data on performanc­e of Scottish public services was consistent with numbers published for England and Wales.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Israel