Government minister Guto Bebb slapped down by Theresa May for saying sense of nationhood in Scotland is 'palpable'

Christopher Hope
Theresa May - 2017 Getty Images

A Government minister has been slapped down by Theresa May for saying Scotland is "another country" and the "sense of nationhood in Edinburgh is palpable".

Guto Bebb, the under secretary of State at the Wales Office, said a recent trip to Edinburgh left him feeling “despondent” as it reminded him of the Republic of Ireland.

The news comes after Mr Bebb criticised the Government's aborted increase in National Insurance contributions because it breached the party's manifesto commitment at the 2015 general election.

Minister Guto Bebb told the BBC: “I believe we should apologise. I will apologise to every voter in Wales that read the Conservative manifesto in the 2015 election.”

First Minister  Nicola Sturgeon  has announced she will seek a second referendum on Scottish independence.

The Aberconwy MP made the comments after attending a meeting of the  British-Irish Council  in Edinburgh which brought together the devolved governments from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Writing in his North Wales Weekly News column, Mr Bebb said: “My brief visit to Edinburgh left me somewhat despondent because I felt the same way as I do when I leave Dublin.

“For me Dublin is somewhere which is recognisable but very different. That is fine in the context of the capital of an independent country but it should be a warning when visiting a city which is a crucial part of the UK.

“The sense of nationhood in Edinburgh is palpable. For a long time it has been satisfied within the UK. Even in 2014 a majority saw themselves as British and Scottish.

"Is that changing though? My gut feeling is yes and that should be a cause for regret to all of us.”

But asked if Mrs May shared Mr Bebb's "despondency", her official spokesman said: "There is nothing more important to her than seeing the United Kingdom, this country, thrive, joined together as one country for over 300 years, and that is what she is focused on.

"The Prime Minister is clear – nothing is more important to her than the United Kingdom.” Asked if Mrs May has confidence in Mr Bebb, he said: “Yes.”

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