St Andrew’s Day
Last week, as Secretary of State for Scotland, I gave the inaugural speech in the annual St Andrew’s Day Address which is being established this year at the Scotland Office in London. This annual Address will see individuals in business, education, politics, media, charities and the arts speaking to an audience in London about Scotland and what it means to them. I used the first speech as an opportunity to celebrate our identity as Scots which I believe has flourished within the UK.
I am a proud Scot with a very British family and background: I was born in Northern Ireland, brought up in Scotland and I am married to someone from England. In my experience of Scottish life I know that the ties that bind us are strong and enduring and we have a clear sense of self, of identity and of nation. Because of this, I don’t believe we need to leave the United Kingdom, which we help to shape, to be Scottish.
I know that many of us here in the Borders are proud of our multiple identities as Borderers, Scots and as Brits and believe we are better together as a family of nations. The history and heritage we share as part of the UK runs deep and I outlined in my speech last week that three hundred years as part of the UK should not discarded casually as we head towards the independence referendum in 2014.
The Leveson inquiry was set up by the Prime Minister last year following the shocking allegations of the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone. Last week, Lord Leveson published the results of his inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press which included recommendations on the future of press regulation and governance.
There has been a lot of concern that Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations could damage the freedom of the press here in the UK. As a Liberal Democrat, who believes in a vigorous free press that holds the powerful to account, I am pleased to say that Lord Justice Leveson’s report has rightly ruled out any state regulation of the press. However, to make sure that newspapers comply with the rules and ensure the vulnerable are protected from press abuses, the report suggests a system that makes it strongly in the paper’s interests to sign up to a new, independent watchdog. The Liberal Democrats believe this is the right thing to do and we will be working in Government to secure this aim.