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Tensions have risen over the creation of a new Festival of Britain, a nationwide cultural festival being planned for 2022 to celebrate everything that makes the UK great. Express.co.uk understands Scottish Government officials had raised concerns about certain references to “British” being included in material relating to the festival which slogan is for the “very best of modern Britain.”
But the tensions haven’t ended there as Whitehall officials further dismissed comments from SNP leader Ian Blackford who said today that Boris Johnson’s premiership has been “woefully exposed” due to his handling of COVID-19.
Making the comments ahead of the new House of Commons sitting, Mr Blackford dismissed the summer visits to Scotland by the Prime Minister and Chancellor to highlight the importance of the union to Scotland as “just photo opportunities”.
Speaking to Express.co.uk Whitehall sources urged Mr Blackford to stop playing “petty party politics” stressing that the UK should be “united” in helping to deal with COVID-19.
The House of Commons is set to return on Tuesday for the next parliamentary session whilst First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will outline her plans for the upcoming Holyrood season next week.
Westminster’s Festival of Britain proposal was said to have been inspired by the 1851 Great Exhibition during Queen Victoria’s reign, and also the post-war Festival of Britain in 1951.
Theresa May announced the £120million concept in 2018 and is expected to consist of a large number of events across the country including in Scotland.
Westminster says that it would give a significant cultural boost to the UK with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport set to start work commissioning agencies to develop festival material.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Whitehall sources said that the festival would “celebrate the best of Britain” and stressed that “Scotland would significantly benefit economically from the event”.
They said that the SNP administration’s stance to the festival was “quite annoying and frustrating.”
When pressed for an answer, the Scottish Government refused to say whether ministers had asked for the words “UK” and “Britain” to be removed from the festival.
A Scottish Government spokesman told Express.co.uk today: “Ministers haven’t even seen any branding proposals to take a position on and have suggested a similar approach to the pan UK Cultural Olympiad at the time of the London Olympics would work well for this.
“The Scottish Government has engaged constructively from an early stage.”
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The tensions come at a time that Westminster is changing its stance on Scotland with Boris Johnson telling his Cabinet that more visits need to be made north of the Border to ensure they have a regular presence.
Mr Johnson has made two visits to Scotland with one being in an official capacity as well as Michael Gove and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
He has also decided to change track and direct an offensive approach to deal with the SNP led administration at Holyrood as he plans another visit to Scotland next month with Rishi Sunak.
But Ian Blackford, leader of the SNP at Westminster dismissed the summer visits to Scotland by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to highlight the importance of the union to Scotland as “just photo opportunities”.
Speaking today, Mr Blackford said: “They can try and have a makeover as much as they like, but the fundamental point is that Scotland’s moving on.
“You can see all the polling which has emerged over the course of the last few months showing that the SNP is in a very strong position for the Scottish elections next year.
“The support for independence is now consistently and materially above 51 percent and I think the big question for Douglas Ross and the Conservatives is will they accept the right of the people of Scotland to determine their own future as they should.”
Ahead of the new Holyrood parliamentary season, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said a “radical” approach was needed to help Scotland’s economic recovery following GERS figures which a £2,000 Union bonus for Scots this week.
In a statement, Ms Sturgeon warned that the virus must not be allowed to “define our futures”.
She added: “We have an opportunity, not simply to go back to how things were, but to address many of the deep-seated challenges our country faces.”
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