Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland
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New Year Message

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack looks back on 2023 and ahead to 2024

As another New Year dawns, I’d like to pass on my best wishes for 2024 to my fellow Scots at home and abroad.

As we get ready to make our resolutions for the year to come, it is also time to take stock of the departing 12 months.

Looking back, we have worked hard on our mission to level up communities across Scotland.

Creating equality of opportunity for all - regardless of background – has been our ambition. Our levelling up initiatives are doing this by helping people and their neighbourhoods flourish.

Listening to local communities - and working closely with the Scottish Government and councils - is bearing fruit on our investments. 

In 2023 we broke through the £2.9 billion barrier when it comes to UK Government levelling-up investment in Scotland.

Among the highlights of the last 12 months have been the creation of two Freeports with a UK Government investment of £26 million each, one on the Firth of Forth and the other on the Cromarty Firth.  

These were followed by the establishment of two Investment Zones in Glasgow and the North East, both of which are benefitting from up to £160 million each from the UK Treasury.

Businesses in these areas will get special tax breaks and other support to help them flourish and create jobs.

Seven Scottish towns are receiving £20 million each as part of our Towns Fund. Levelling Up Partnerships have also been set up which will result in Dundee, the Western Isles, Argyll and Bute and Dumfries and Galloway receiving £20 million each. This funding will help transform these communities, boosting investment and jobs.

And 2023 saw the announcement of two further rounds of the Levelling Up Fund, which will pay for multi-million-pound community investment right across Scotland.

Along with my ministerial colleagues in the Scotland Office, Malcolm Offord and John Lamont, it has been great to visit many of these projects and see for ourselves the difference they are making.

Reflecting on 2023, it would be remiss of me not to mention the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Reform legislation. The decision to issue a Section 35 Order for the first time in the history of devolution was not one which I took lightly. But when faced with proposals that would have an adverse impact on reserved equalities legislation I felt there was little option other than to act. I strongly believe the comprehensive judgement issued by Lady Haldane in the UK Government’s favour entirely justifies this stance.

Scotland is famous across the world for our culture and sport. We were delighted to contribute to the arts scene by contributing almost £9 million to the world-famous Edinburgh festivals.

I was thrilled that Scotland’s men’s team qualified for next year’s European Championships. It was a pleasure to welcome Steve Clarke to Dover House when we hosted a reception marking the 150th anniversary of the Scottish Football Association. Like all Scotland fans I’m tremendously excited by the thought of our team going to Germany in 2024.

A highlight of 2023 for so many was the Coronation of King Charles III. As Scottish Secretary I was greatly honoured to play a small part in an uplifting and moving ceremony which marked the beginning of a new era in the history of the United Kingdom.

I know that for many people the last few years have been extremely difficult. We are still feeling the impact of the Covid pandemic and Vladimir Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine has put pressure on our economy. Under the leadership of Rishi Sunak, the UK Government has made great strides in bringing inflation down. And just as the broad shoulders of the UK Treasury provided unprecedented support during Covid, we have provided unprecedented financial help to tackle the cost of living crisis. Our £105 billion funding package is providing each household with an average of £3,700 in support.

By working together as one United Kingdom we can withstand the challenges the coming months and years throw at us.

And, looking ahead to 2024, my resolution is to keep working to bring more prosperity and jobs to Scotland. With that in mind, I’m looking forward to the opening of the Perth Museum, backed by £10 million from the UK Government and which will be a splendid new home for the Stone of Scone.

We will also see the signing of the full growth deals for Falkirk and Argyll and Bute, partnerships in which we will invest £40 million and £25 million respectively. And yet more money for community projects as we continue our levelling up mission.

Happy New Year.

Alister Jack, Secretary of State for Scotland

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