Conservative Policy Forum meeting to discuss “Strengthening the United Kingdom” on Monday 4th July, 7.30pm, Camelford Conservative Club.
“Accountable and empowered local leadership has been the golden thread in British history and critical to the success of our peoples. I feel that when the balance of power tips too far away from local communities and towards central government, that people feel a sense of disempowerment.
“Talent is spread equally across our country; but opportunity is not. Disparities persist, between places and within them. … Overcoming those difficulties is a shared challenge. It is a challenge for governments in Holyrood and in Whitehall [and Stormont and Cardiff], it is a challenge for local government and it’s a challenge that should bind people together across parties.” (Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, 24 February 2022)
This consultation is not about devolution. CPF Groups considered the constitutional questions connected with the Union at the start of 2021. Rather, this consultation is about what more can be done to strengthen social bonds across the UK.
The armed forces recruit from across the whole country and demonstrate how strong regional identities (e.g. in local regiments) can co-exist alongside a strong sense of national pride. The question is how to replicate this balance of strengths across other areas of our lives and culture, including regional spending, local government strategy and the civil service.
Reportedly, Brits are more likely to have visited Paris than Edinburgh and more likely to have been to Amsterdam than Nottingham. Half (49%) have never visited a Scottish castle and one-in-seven (14%) have never visited London, including one-in-three (34%) UK schoolchildren. Five-in-six (83%) agree that their local area is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together. One-in-six (17%) adults (aged 16+) in England, however, feel that they do not belong very strongly or at all to Britain and one-in-three (35%) feel they do not belong to their neighbourhood. In addition, two-in-five (39%) adults report that all of their friends are the same ethnic group as them and two-in-seven (28%) said they are all from the same religious group. One-in-five (20%) said they have the same level of education as all their friends and almost one-in-five (18%) state that all of their friends are the same age group as them.
Various schemes exist to expand the horizons and opportunities available to individuals, e.g.:
· The National Citizen Service (NCS) exists to engage, unite and empower young people, enabling 16 and 17 year-olds to spend a few weeks in the summer or autumn mixing with a new crowd, taking on fresh challenges together.
· The Turing Scheme provides funding for international opportunities in education and training across the world. It enables UK organisations from the higher education, further education, vocational education & training and schools sectors to offer their students, learners and pupils life-changing experiences to study or work abroad.
Questions for discussion:
1. What do you consider to be the values and symbols of the UK?
2. What do you consider to be the advantages of the UK to its component nations?
3. How might we encourage schemes that facilitate younger people mixing more across the UK?
4. How might we build on the NCS and educational schemes such as the Turing Scheme, including at primary school level?
5. How might transport, business, the arts and media be used to strengthen ties across the UK?
6. How might our common defence and global influence be used to strengthen ties across the UK?
7. Is there any other observation you would like to make?
We look forward to seeing you on Monday 4th July at Camelford Conservative Club.