30 October 2020

UK and Scottish governments used Covid-19 to divide country, Sir Ed Davey says

30 October 2020

The Scottish and UK governments have used the coronavirus pandemic to try to divide the country, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has insisted.

He argued that coronavirus should have seen Holyrood and Westminster working more closely together.

Sir Ed said the UK and Scottish governments “must work together to give far more support to small businesses – especially in the tourism and hospitality sectors”.

He said one of the things that had made him “angriest” was “the way our governments – in Westminster and in Holyrood – have sought not to bring people together to solve this crisis, but instead to use the pandemic to divide our country”.

This, he said, resulted in situations with “Tory ministers versus Labour mayors” and “Nicola Sturgeon versus Boris Johnson” – as well as “Matt Hancock versus reality”.

Branding this a “truly unedifying spectacle”, he added: “I’m sure it serves their egos and their narrow political interests, but it certainly doesn’t serve the families and businesses who are struggling just to make ends meet.”

The Liberal Democrat leader – who was elected into the post two months ago – said the coronavirus pandemic had shown the way the UK currently operates is “not fit for purpose”.

He insisted the answer to this was not the SNP’s calls for independence, claiming the federal UK his party proposes is a “better way forward”.

Sir Ed, who was addressing the Scottish Liberal Democrat virtual conference, said: “The truth is this pandemic has exposed that the way the United Kingdom currently runs is not fit for purpose.

“But the answer cannot be to tear it apart.”

He continued: “I can understand why people would seek any alternative to life under Boris Johnson’s cruel and incompetent Tory government.

“But whether it takes four months or four years, Boris Johnson will be gone. The shared history and values of our family of nations – fashioned over centuries – will endure.

“So it falls to us, as Liberal Democrats, to offer a better way forward.

“We must offer an alternative to both the dishonest, embarrassingly incompetent Conservative government in Westminster and the failing SNP government, distracted by its pursuit of independence from serving the real interests of the Scottish people.

“We must also offer a new future – a federal future for our United Kingdom.

“A genuine partnership of nations and regions that gives individuals more control over their own lives.”

He pledged that Liberal Democrats would work to “reject more division and instead put forward a positive partnership” and to “work for a stronger Scotland and a better United Kingdom”.

With Holyrood elections due to take place in May 2021, he said his party would seek to “keep the next Parliament focused on the priorities and concerns of families across Scotland, not fixated on another divisive independence referendum”.

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