EDINBURGH—British government ministers in August inaugurated a gleaming new office building in the center of Scotland’s capital that they touted as a key piece of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans to quiet rising calls for Scottish independence.
The newly completed, seven-story Queen Elizabeth House will host thousands of British civil servants and, for the first time in Scotland, a room for U.K. government cabinet meetings.
With polls showing Scottish support for leaving the U.K. is growing, the government has “to increase the amount of noise we make about the financial support and the benefits of being part of the United Kingdom,” said Alister Jack, the U.K. government’s secretary of state for Scotland, who recently toured the building.
Scotland held a referendum on leaving the U.K. in 2014, with Scots rejecting independence by a comfortable margin. But the British government’s flat-footed response to the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit—which Scotland overwhelmingly voted against in 2016—has fueled a resurgence in popularity for ending Scotland’s 313-year union with England. For the first time in the modern era, support for independence is consistently polling above 50%.
The Johnson government has decided to go on the offensive.