Rishi Sunak says he will oppose nationalism ‘with an argument that speaks to people’s hearts’
Rishi Sunak has promised to do more to oppose nationalism, and says that in his previous role as chancellor he had started to “more actively demonstrate the benefit of the union in Scotland”.
The pledge comes with the new Chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, set to visit Edinburgh on Wednesday to emphasise the UK Government’s commitment to energy security and to reaffirm it’s commitment to help Scots with the rising cost of living.
Speaking at the latest Conservative Leadership hustings in Birmingham on Tuesday evening, Mr Sunak said: “When it comes to arguing for the union, we have to remember nationalism is very seductive, it’s a romantic idea, and we have to fight that idea with an argument that speaks to people’s hearts.”
Earlier this month Mr Sunak’s camp floated plans to widen the “definition of extremism to include people who vilify the country,” which experts warned could criminalise supporters of Scottish and Welsh independence.
The former Chancellor also outlined plans to extend the UK Government’s operations into devolved areas if he is elected as the new leader of the Conservative Party.
Mr Sunak said he intends to reform the UK Government’s union unit, which was set up by Boris Johnson last year in an effort to avert the prospect of Scottish independence, and pledged to put an end to “the Whitehall mentality of devolve and forget”.
The reformed unit, the former chancellor said, will ensure “every single” government department operates UK-wide, despite key policy areas like education and health having been devolved to the governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Laying out his plans for Scotland if he were to become prime minister, Mr Sunak said his government would be the most active in Scotland in decades by sending ministers to there more regularly and claimed, “Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP pose an existential threat to our cherished union”.
Sunak’s leadership rival Liz Truss is widely expected to clinch her party’s nomination for leader and therefore be asked to become the next Prime Minister.
She has also pledged her commitment to uphold the United Kingdom as she hit out at politicians in the devolved administrations for playing “political games” rather than delivering for voters.
The Foreign Secretary said that if she succeeds in becoming Prime Minister, she would also take on the role of minister for the Union – a position created and held by Boris Johnson.
Ms Truss sparked controversy earlier this month by attacking Mark Drakeford and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
She described the Welsh First Minister as a “low energy version of Jeremy Corbyn” just days after saying Ms Sturgeon was an “attention seeker” who is “best ignored”.
During a leadership hustings in Wales, Ms Truss said: “The fact is there are too many people in this country who are ashamed of our history, who talk our country down, who say the best days are behind us. They are completely wrong. I’m afraid one of them is Mark Drakeford.”
Her comments attacking Ms Sturgeon were seized on by the SNP leader who said it showed Ms Truss would ignore Scotland if she wins the race for the Tory crown in a ballot among party activists.
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