First Ministers invited to join UK Government in ‘levelling up’ the country

Nicola Sturgeon and her counterparts in Wales and Northern Ireland urged to join 'new collective effort'.

First Ministers invited to join UK Government in ‘levelling up’ the country PA Media

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the devolved leaders of Wales and Northern Ireland are being invited by the UK Government to join a “new collective effort to level up” the whole of the UK.

The move, announced ahead of the publication of the Conservative administration’s Levelling Up white paper, comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson attempts to divert attention from “party-gate” allegations.

Levelling-up secretary Michael Gove is set to invite Nicola Sturgeon, as well as her Welsh counterpart Mark Drakeford and Paul Givan and Michelle O’Neill from Northern Ireland, to take part in the project, which calls for the four nations to work together in the same way as they did in the Covid vaccine roll out.

Johnson: “From day one, the defining mission of this government has been to level up this country, to break the link between geography and destiny so that no matter where you live you have access to the same opportunities.”

He added: “The challenges we face have been embedded over generations and cannot be dug out overnight, but this white paper is the next crucial step.

Gove meanwhile described the UK as an “unparalleled success story with one of the world’s biggest and most dynamic economies”.

However he stated: “Not everyone shares equally in the UK’s success. Great cities like Glasgow, Belfast, Swansea and Manchester, and proud towns from Aberystwyth to Armagh, to Bangor and Yeovil, have huge potential but contain inequalities which hold too many back.

“Our ambitious plan to unite and level up the whole UK seeks to end that historic injustice and call time on the postcode lottery.”

But he added: “We will only succeed if all layers of government – UK, devolved, and local – work together.

“We have seen through the success of the vaccine roll-out what we can achieve when we pull together. United, there is no challenge we cannot meet.”

The Glasgow city region is to be one of three new innovation accelerator areas, and will receive a share of £100m of UK Government funding in a bid to encourage innovation and research and development work and boost local opportunities

Scottish secretary Alister Jack urged Holyrood ministers to work with the UK Government towards “improving lives across Scotland”.

He added: “Initiatives such as the Glasgow City region becoming an Innovation Accelerator, unlocking access to a share of £100m of new funding, will help Scotland continue its vital role in keeping the UK at the forefront of global science and research.

“Thanks to locally led partnerships working closely with the UK Government, the region will become a major innovation cluster delivering high end jobs.

“This, along with the UK Government’s commitment to invest £20bn research and development budget outside the greater south east of England, is great news for Scotland and the wider UK as we deliver on our levelling up commitments.”

Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said: “We have long supported Glasgow’s campaign to be recognised as a substantial City of Science and Innovation and so we are delighted that Glasgow has been selected as an Innovation Accelerator. 

“The announcement comes as an appropriate acknowledgement of the sheer scale and quality of both our academic research and the relationships that have been built with industry. 

“Valuable initiatives that could be accelerated include Glasgow’s three innovation districts, led by the Universities of Strathclyde and Glasgow, that are helping to develop our prowess in engineering, advanced manufacturing and the health and life sciences.

“We stand ready to help the city partners in making funding bids.”

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