England and Scotland are proud and passionate rivals… but even better allies

WEMBLEY was an amazing place to be on Friday night.

My son and I were cheering on Scotland — and were delighted by the passionate performance of Steve Clarke’s team.

I grew up in Aberdeen but my son was born in Surrey.

Yet he’s Scottish in his heart.

Just like the Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay, who was born in England but plays for ­Scotland, he shows how intimate the ties are across these islands.

And how much we gain by being together.

Across this great United Kingdom we are a family of nations and a nation of families.

Mums and aunties in Scotland, uncles and nephews in Wales, grannies and cousins in Northern Ireland, fathers and sons living in England, all bound together by the deepest of ties and all fiercely proud of the part of the UK where our heart lies.

On the football pitch, Scotland and England, Wales and Northern Ireland are proud and passionate rivals.

But together, we make up something even bigger than the sum of our parts: the United Kingdom, the greatest union the world has known.

We can pull on different football shirts to cheer for our home nations one month, and then come together to cheer on Team GB at the Olympics the next month.

There’s no contradiction there — just a symbol of our strength. It is a strength in diversity.

We are a Union of multiple ­identities. Different nations and ­backgrounds, different religions and cultures — all sharing a common stake in the success of our country.

The great thing about the UK is that you do not have to choose between these different identities.

You can enjoy them all.

You might feel more Welsh than British or more Cornish than English.

That doesn’t matter. In the UK, all are respected.

And just as we celebrate those ­differences, it has never been clearer that we are all better off for being one United Kingdom.


The UK’s brilliant vaccine rollout — a truly global achievement — is a case in point.

We went out into the global marketplace to buy vaccines with all the clout and heft that comes with being the world’s fifth largest economy.

Whether you were shielding on Shetland or bubbling in Bangor — the UK Government was fighting your corner and securing access to the best vaccines.

Then, when it came time to get jabs into arms from Land’s End to John O’Groats, our NHS stepped up.

It is the embodiment of the spirit that makes the UK what it is.

Wherever you are in our country, you know that it is there for you — high quality healthcare, free at the point of use, according to clinical need.

None of us can achieve our goals alone — we succeed when we play as a team.

No part of the UK could have secured that vaccine success alone.

We all benefited from working together.

All levels of government played their part, with the British Army providing invaluable support.

Indeed, our fantastic Armed Forces are another great example of Britain’s strength through diversity.

Our servicemen and women are the best of us and they are drawn from the four corners of the Union.

Historic regiments and battalions like the Black Watch and the Royal Welsh reflect our proudly held identities.

Rivalries can be fierce, but when duty calls, we put differences aside and pull together.


As Global Britain, we are an immense force for good in the world.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is being sold at cost so it is affordable to the poorest.

Countless lives around the world will be saved by cutting-edge science developed right here in the UK.

And last week at the G7 the Prime Minister announced that the UK will donate 100 million surplus coronavirus vaccine doses to the world within the next year.

Thanks to the generosity of British taxpayers, UK aid is helping girls go to school and feeding the hungry.

British diplomats work night and day in every capital city to protect British citizens and make the world a safer place.

Our world-class security services work with our allies to defeat terrorist threats.

Outside the EU, the UK is leading the global fightback for free trade.

And at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow this autumn, the UK will bring leaders of nations great and small together to strike a blow against global warming.

A greener planet, a safer world and a more prosperous future for everyone — these are the United Kingdom’s progressive priorities.

We can only achieve these things by standing together.

We can only make our unique and distinctive contribution if we have all of the talents of Scotland and Wales, England and Northern Ireland together on the pitch.

That means defeating the narrow nationalism of parties like the SNP with a positive vision of the future.

As we level up and build back better from the pandemic, we will ensure that no community, wherever in the kingdom, is left behind


As we cautiously but irreversibly lift the Covid restrictions, the success of our UK vaccine rollout means we can now begin to look towards recovery.

Just as we faced the pandemic as one UK, with the Treasury’s furlough scheme supporting livelihoods in all parts of the Union, so we must recover together too, bringing all our strengths to bear.

Scotch whisky and Welsh aircraft parts will help to power our export-led recovery — aided by new markets being opened up by post-Brexit trade deals.

When the lights go up on the film studios of Belfast and the stages of the West End, they will once again be global cultural powerhouses.

From restoring our economic health to tackling the public service backlogs caused by Covid, we will succeed by working together across the UK — helping each other, as we always do in times of trial.

Like any family, we have our differences and our rivalries.

But we have more in common than anything that divides us.

We will come back stronger from this pandemic by standing together.

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