Boris Johnson has put the Union and constitutional tensions in Scotland at the heart of Britain’s future defence and foreign policy.
The Prime Minister pledged to protect The Black Watch, create jobs and boost Scottish shipbuilding as part of the UK government’s Integrated Review of Defence and Foreign Policy, which outlines Britain’s place in the world after Brexit.
In his foreword to the document, published on Tuesday, Johnson wrote in bold letters: “The Union between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has proved its worth time and again, including in this pandemic. It is our greatest source of strength at home and abroad.”
The opening paragraphs of the 100 page document also betray Downing Street nerves over SNP demands for a second independence referendum which could fatally undermine the UK’s role as major global player.
In the opening section, entitled “A stronger, more secure, prosperous and resilient Union”, the document promises: “Our Union will be more secure and prosperous, with the benefits of growth and opportunity shared between all our citizens, wherever they live in the UK.
“We will have built back better from COVID-19 with a strong economic recovery and greater national resilience to threats and hazards in the physical and digital world.”
In the Commons Johnson said that the review promised more jobs for Scotland at RAF Lossiemouth and the Foreign and International Development offices in East Kilbride as well as shipbuilding jobs on the Clyde.
Although the accompanying Defence review next week will cut the size of the army, the Prime Minister told SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford there was “no threat” to the Black Watch battalion bearing Scotland’s last historic regimental name badge.
He said: “This government continues to invest massively in projects that will bring benefits to the whole of the UK, including to Scotland.
“I can tell him that there’ll be further investments in Lossiemouth, that there is no threats to The Black Watch, which I know that he and his colleagues sometimes like to raise in order to alarm people.
Johnson told Blackford: “The only thing endangering these investments is the reckless referendum which his party insist on calling at the most inapposite time possible for this country.”
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Blackford hit out at the Tory cuts to international development and the controversial plan in the document to increase the number of Trident nuclear warheads at the Faslane submarine base on the Clyde .
He said: “This review disgracefully endorses the attainment of 80 more of these weapons of mass destruction. Who gave his government the democratic right to renege on the UK obligations under the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty?”
Labour’s Keir Starmer said the Government was asleep at the wheel on the UK’s biggest threat, Russia, which still remains the “most acute threat to our security”, the document said.
The Labour leader told the Commons: “The review rightly concludes that Russia remains the most acute threat to our security – that is not new, 18 months ago the Russia review concluded that the threat was ‘urgent and immediate’ – so why have none of its recommendations been implemented?”
Starmer added: “The Integrated Review talks about the importance of upholding international law, I agree, but from Europe to the Indian Ocean this Government now has a reputation for breaking international law, not defending it.”
“The Prime Minister’s statement didn’t mention international development once, and I wonder why – because he is cutting development spending for the first time in decades and denying this House a vote on it.
“If global Britain is to mean anything, it cannot mean selling arms to Saudi Arabia and cutting aid to Yemen.”
The review also includes the creation of a new state-of-the-art counter-terrorism “situation centre” in the Cabinet Office similar to the White House situation room to streamline the response of police and the intelligence agencies in the event of an attack.