Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has criticised the London-centric focus of UK politics whilst speaking from the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester last weekend.
She commended the work of the Scottish Conservatives for winning 13 seats in the election earlier this year. Prior to this, the Conservative Party have been unable to attain more than one seat in Scotland at each election.
Scottish Conservative MPs now constitute 13 of the 316 nationally elected conservatives, giving Scotland more weight in parliament, and Davidson has taken this opportunity to call for a more balanced economy.
Davidson called for change, telling conference audience member that it is time, “to give Britain a shake and spread more of our Union outside the capital. To see our great metropolitan cities have a larger share in the government of our country.”
Highlighting that the civil service is too London centric, she claimed that, “if our civil service and cultural bodies are to claim to be UK institutions – they must be present across our whole United Kingdom. To move more of the infrastructure, the people and the administration of our country out of the capital and into the country.
To move more of the infrastructure, the people and the administration of our country out of the capital and into the country.
“The truth is: for all the devolution of power in the last twenty years, our Union continues to be far too London-centric. And this imbalance is getting crazy.”
Davidson’s call for economic balance came just one week after Andy Burnham, mayor of Manchester, criticised labour’s focus on the UK’s capital. Burnham told the BBC’s Sunday Politics, “It’s not about me having a divine right to speak at conference, but it disappoints me that there’s no prominent northern voice from one of the cities speaking.”
At the Conservative conference Davidson suggested that relocating government agencies to outside of London may help to address the issue of London-centrism. The Scottish Conservative leader highlighted that this is happening already, and more civil service jobs are moving to her own constituency of Edinburgh.
The Scottish Conservative leader highlighted that this is happening already, and more civil service jobs are moving to her own constituency of Edinburgh.
In July it was announced that a new government hub will be opened in Edinburgh and will create a public services centre for almost 3000 civil servants close to Waverley station in 2020.
The newfound representation of Scottish Conservatives in parliament has been felt within the party. Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, highlighted in his conference speech that Ruth Davidson has been successful in, “re-establishing an assertive Scottish Conservative voice in our UK parliament for the first time in two decades.”
Davidson subsequently stated, “We’re serious…serious about restoring Scotland’s reputation as the education capital of the world… serious about boosting our productivity – to get Scotland’s economy firing once again. And serious about running a government in Scotland that just gets on with the job for once. “
Earlier this year Edinburgh and South East Scotland secured £1.1 billion worth of funding from the UK and Scottish governments. £300m is set to be invested in world leading data innovation centres as well as a £25m regional skills programme to support improved career opportunities for disadvantaged groups.