TORY leadership hopeful Matt Hancock deployed some standard evasion tactics last night over “nonsense” claims about the Union Jack.
Hancock had told BBC Scotland about one of the “proudest things” he had achieved during his six-month tenure as UK culture secretary in 2018.
In a clip broadcast on Good Morning Scotland yesterday, he said: “One of the proudest things I have done as a minister was when I was Culture Secretary, making sure we got Union Jacks on the Edinburgh festival, because the Edinburgh festival is not only Scotland’s biggest and best festival, it’s the UK’s biggest and best festival.”
Yesterday Scotland’s long-serving Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop called that “nonsense”, saying it simply didn’t happen. And the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) told The National it had no idea what Hancock was referring to.
A spokesperson for the organisation said: “The International Festival didn’t use a Union Jack in any official capacity last year.”
Despite highlighting his January-July 2018 term with the Westminster culture brief, Hancock’s reference to “the Edinburgh festival” fails to pinpoint any specific event – because none uses that name.
Due to the number of high-profile events taking place in the capital every year, including the EIF and Edinburgh Festival Fringe, The National contacted Hancock for clarification about his comment.
We asked him which festival he was talking about, what form the Union Jack deal took and what investment was behind it. We also asked the same questions of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
However, there was no response to a request for comment last night from either Hancock or the department he used to lead.
It is not known whether or not that means he has raised the white flag over the matter.
The EIF said: “We don’t believe that Mr Hancock’s comments relate specifically to any International Festival initiative.
“The International Festival also doesn’t have a policy for the use of national flags but instead reviews their use on a case-by-case basis.”
Earlier in the day, Hyslop said that the UK Government “didn’t know the difference” between Edinburgh’s world-famous arts events, telling followers on Twitter : “What nonsense!
“Matt Hancock says the best thing he did as UK Culture Secretary was get Union Flag on Edinburgh International Festivals!!
She continued: “It would be completely wrong for UK Government, or indeed any government including the Scottish Government to try and hijack/appropriate independent arts festivals.
“Oh and didn’t notice funding either! Some MoD support for Tattoo I would expect and a small one-off Fringe funding when PM visited which was probably intended for the Edinburgh International Festival but they didn’t know the difference!”
Hancock, who currently serves under Theresa May as her Health and Social Care Secretary, is amongst 11 candidates vying to succeed her.
Yesterday he told foreign policy experts that the UK should create a “home grown” 5G network to counter the surveillance threat posed by overseas companies. The comments relate to concerns that Chinese tech giant Huawei could be used as a means for spying by that country’s agencies.
Hancock said: “We should beat Huawei with a British champion of our own. A champion that can become a global leader.”