THE last twelve months have been uniquely challenging for all of us. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed strains on our country’s resilience like nothing we have seen out of wartime. We have lost more than a hundred thousand of our fellow citizens to this virus.

The public have shown amazing patience and forbearance as normal life has been up-ended. Large sections of our economy have been held in suspended animation. Students have lost learning, victims of crime have seen justice delayed, backlogs have built in the health service. There is now a responsibility on all of us in government to work across the United Kingdom to ensure we can recover and build back better.

That means ensuring we work together to safeguard our citizens’ health and well-being, working together to build a sustainable economic recovery and to face the big challenges of the future such as climate change. There is so much to do and our fellow citizens – who have endured so much – want to see us united and co-operating to improve their daily lives.

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We’ve seen the very best of that co-operation in our vaccination programme across the whole United Kingdom. With over 24 million adults in the UK having received their first doses, the programme is testament to teamwork. UK Government funding originally helped with the research costs of the AstraZeneca vaccine which was created by scientists in Oxford and tested by volunteers in Belfast. It is readied for distribution in the Wockhardt facility in Wrexham and has been rolled out with the support of the UK Armed Forces and our amazing NHS professionals. Our vaccine programme has meant millions are now protected across Scotland, including my own mum and dad, and it is also driving investment in Scottish science. At the Valneva plant in Livingston, large-scale manufacturing of another vaccine candidate is also under way, with larger tests planned for April if encouraging initial results continue.

Every week I get together with the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales and the First and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland to review progress in the fight against Covid-19, pool information, share insights and discuss our shared path to recovery. We learn from each other and this pragmatic co-operation is a great example of all the UK’s governments working together.

But there is so much more still to do. Not least when it comes to making up for lost learning, tackling the backlog of operations in our NHS and ensuring we can safeguard jobs and livelihoods in the months ahead. It’s my job to co-ordinate the UK Government’s work in these areas, and to ensure we work collaboratively with elected politicians across the UK, and leaders in business and civil society, to solve shared problems. Last week I discussed how we can better support Scottish businesses with Scottish Government ministers and in recent months I’ve discussed vaccine take-up with the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Health, university arrangements with the Deputy First Minister and the future of food and drink with my old friend Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy.

Because the scale of our shared future challenges is so great, because it’s better when we all work together and because Scotland’s people deserve the best from both of the governments that serve them, the Scottish Government and the UK Government, we’re announcing today a major investment in supporting a better future for Scotland and the UK. The Cabinet Office is opening a second HQ in Glasgow, with hundreds of new jobs designed to ensure we build the strongest recovery possible.

The Cabinet Office – the engine-room of the UK Government – will lead on reaching out to business, civil society and elected leaders to support recovery. And we’ll be joined by 500 new colleagues working for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in East Kilbride.

In all, that’s 1000 more civil service jobs and more time spent by UK ministers in Scotland, working in partnership with the Scottish Government for the common good.

And a major part of our agenda this year will be the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow. We are working with leaders and delegates from around the world ahead of the November summit to ensure they join us in committing to net zero carbon emissions and the preservation and recovery of our natural world.

As we look to rebuild our economy for a greener and more sustainable future, we will do this together too – the UK Government working with its devolved counterparts in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Stormont.

Glasgow Times: Prime Minister Boris Johnson on a recent visit to Glasgow, speaking to British Army troops at a vaccine hub in Castlemilk Prime Minister Boris Johnson on a recent visit to Glasgow, speaking to British Army troops at a vaccine hub in Castlemilk

The financial firepower of the UK Treasury ensured that in the Budget, the Chancellor was able to allocate billions of pounds for the furlough scheme, further grants and loans to businesses, and new projects to boost Britain’s recovery. Outside the European Union we can target our money where it is most needed, meaning that the skilled workers found in abundance across Scotland, and its transport and other infrastructure projects, benefit from direct investment.

Our recovery for every part of the UK will see us invest in the future of our young people, creating new jobs, developing new technologies and building a greener, cleaner Britain.

That should be the primary focus of all our energies. And that is what the new team in Glasgow will be determined to work with everyone to achieve.