The UK Prime Minister delivered a keynote speech at the Conservative party conference, where he attacked the former Scottish First Minister and praised the strength of the Union.
Sunak takes aim at Sturgeon’s legacy
Rishi Sunak, the UK Prime Minister, took aim at Nicola Sturgeon, the former Scottish First Minister, during his speech at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham. He claimed that the “forces of separatism are in retreat across our country” and that Sturgeon wanted to “go down in the history books as the woman who broke up our country”.
Sunak said that Sturgeon’s legacy may be tarnished by “very different reasons”, referring to the ongoing inquiry into her handling of sexual harassment allegations against her predecessor, Alex Salmond. He accused her of “failing to deliver on education, health and justice” and of “dividing our country with her obsession with independence”.
Sunak praises the Union as a ‘family of nations’
Sunak also praised the Union as a “remarkable combination of four nations with a proud history” and said that it was “the strongest it has been in a quarter of a century”. He cited the UK’s successful vaccination programme, its hosting of the COP26 climate summit, and its global leadership on trade and security as examples of the benefits of being part of the Union.
He said that the UK was “undoubtedly the world’s most successful political union” and that it had “enormous confidence in our future”. He thanked his Scottish colleagues for “holding those independence crusaders to account” and said that he was determined to “smash” the nationalists at the next general election.
Sunak confirms cancellation of HS2 project
Sunak also confirmed that he was cancelling the rest of the HS2 project, following days of speculation. He said that the high-speed rail project was “a colossal waste of money” and that it would have “devastated our countryside and communities”. He said that he would instead invest in “better transport links across the whole country”, including in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
He said that he was committed to “levelling up” every part of the UK and to creating “a fairer, greener and more prosperous society”. He said that he would announce more details of his spending plans in his autumn budget later this month.
Sunak faces criticism from SNP and Labour
Sunak’s speech was met with criticism from the SNP and Labour, who accused him of being out of touch with Scotland and of damaging the economy with his policies. An SNP spokesman said that Sunak had “some brass neck to pretend he knows or cares about Scotland’s interests” and that he had “dragged Scotland out of the EU with a Brexit we didn’t vote for”.
The SNP spokesman also said that Sunak had “undermined Scotland’s net zero ambitions” and had “forced Scottish households to pay the price for his disastrous economic mismanagement”. He said that Sunak’s speech was “a mortifying attempt to distract from the truth that we all know; that the Tories are finished, and no number of snide remarks or grandstanding comments can save them now”.
The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, also attacked Sunak for his handling of the pandemic, saying that he had “failed to protect jobs, businesses and livelihoods”. He said that Sunak had “cut universal credit, frozen public sector pay and hiked taxes on working people”. He said that Sunak was “not fit to lead this country” and that Labour had “a better plan for Britain”.
What will happen next?
Sunak’s speech has set the tone for his upcoming budget, where he is expected to announce more measures to boost the economy and tackle climate change. However, he may also face more challenges from his own party, as some Tory MPs are unhappy with his tax rises and spending cuts. He may also face more pressure from Scotland, as the SNP is pushing for another independence referendum. The question is: can Sunak deliver on his promises and keep the Union together?