Boris Johnson will visit Scotland on Monday to promise to “strengthen the union” and pledge £300m for boosting growth in the devolved nations amid warnings that his no-deal Brexit strategy risks breaking up the UK.
During a visit to a military base, Johnson will pledge extra funding for “growth deals”, before heading to Wales in the following days for talks with the farming community and then Northern Ireland to discuss restoring power-sharing.
However, his willingness to take the UK out of the EU in a no-deal Brexit has been challenged already in Scotland by Ruth Davidson as she warned she could not sign up to such a policy.
The leader of the Scottish Conservatives is expected to meet Johnson in Edinburgh on Monday, after the prime minister begins his trip north with a visit on the west coast.
In her regular column for the Scottish Mail on Sunday, Davidson wrote: “When I was debating against the pro-Brexit side in 2016, I don’t remember anybody saying we should crash out of the EU with no arrangements in place to help maintain the vital trade that flows uninterrupted between Britain and the European Union.
“I don’t think the government should pursue a no-deal Brexit and, if it comes to it, I won’t support it.”
Saying she had confirmed her position to Johnson when the pair spoke by telephone last week after his election as UK Conservative leader, Davidson added: “As leader of the party in Scotland, my position exists independently of government. I don’t have to sign a no-deal pledge to continue to serve.”
The Scottish government also poured scorn on Johnson’s announcement of £300m for growth deals, saying that with a no-deal Brexit on the table it was “fiddling while Rome burns”.
A spokesperson for Derek MacKay, the Scottish finance secretary, said: “Investment in Scotland is always welcome but on top of delivering on this existing commitment the new prime minister must honour his new found belief in the Barnett formula by transferring a full share of the £3.6bn announced for towns in England to the Scottish government, further funding for no-deal planning as well as the £160m of farming funding that has been withheld, a fair share of the funds given to the DUP to prop up the UK government and the outstanding £175m of police and fire VAT charges that have yet to be returned.
“If Mr Johnson thinks he can win over Scotland with recycled and underfunded spending plans he has a lot to learn in his new role.”
The announcement of £300m in cash for development projects comes on top of an existing £2.78bn committed for growth deals across the devolved nations.
During his visit to Scotland, Johnson is expected to say: “Our union is the most successful political and economic union in history. We are a global brand and together we are safer, stronger and more prosperous.
“So as we prepare for our bright future after Brexit, it’s vital we renew the ties that bind our United Kingdom.
“I’m proud to be in Scotland today to make clear that I am a passionate believer in our great union, and I look forward to visiting Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure that every decision I make as prime minister promotes and strengthens our union.”
Johnson has made visiting Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland a priority amid warnings from some Tory colleagues that a no-deal Brexit could increase support for independence.
He has infuriated Davidson by sacking her ally, David Mundell, as Scottish secretary, and replacing him with another Scottish Tory MP, Alister Jack, plus an English MP, Robin Walker, as a junior minister.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, is reviewing the timetable for a possible second vote on Scottish independence and Johnson has been branded the “last prime minister of the UK” by the SNP.
Both Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford, the Labour first minister of Wales, have told the prime minister it would be “unconscionable” for the UK to leave the EU without a deal.
Johnson told the first meeting of his cabinet on Thursday that he would be taking the title of minister for the union alongside that of prime minister – a move described by a spokesman as a statement of his commitment to strengthening the union.
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