The prime minister of the United Kingdom has declared the “sheer might” of the union has been underlined by the coronavirus pandemic.
Boris Johnson – ahead of his first trip north of the border since the Covid-19 outbreak – said: “The last six months have shown exactly why the historic and heartfelt bond that ties the four nations of our country together is so important and the sheer might of our union has been proven once again.”
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon immediately hit back at the PM, saying Johnson should not “crow” about the UK’s success in handling the pandemic.
“It’s not politics,” said Sturgeon during today’s Scottish coronavirus press conference, adding: “I don’t think any of us should be trying to use Covid, the pandemic and the crisis situation we are facing…as some kind of political campaigning tool. This is a pandemic that has taken the lives of more than 50, 000 people across the UK.”
Sturgeon added. “We have all tried to do our best but I don’t think any of us have grounds to crow or feel satisfied about this. It’s not politics, it’s not a constitutional argument.”
The first minister tweeted earlier today that she welcomed “the PM to Scotland” and added: “One of the key arguments for independence is the ability of Scotland to take our own decisions, rather than having our future decided by politicians we didn’t vote for, taking us down a path we haven’t chosen. His presence highlights that.”
‘Lockdown could have spelled disaster for country’ – PM
In comments made before arriving in Scotland, Johnson said the crisis showed how the country was “working together with money for supporting people through furlough, the Army working on the testing, moving people around”.
The PM will visit military and emergency services personnel in the far north of Scotland to thank them for their work in combating the virus. He will also be emphasising the financial assistance given by the Treasury to all four nations of the UK during the crisis which has seen support for Scottish independence rise to record levels.
In a column for the Times, published today, the PM writes that the lockdown “could have spelled disaster for the country, an economic tsunami that washed away hundreds of thousands of Scottish jobs and saw countless businesses lost for ever below the waves.
“But it didn’t happen,” he continues, stating “a third of workers” have had their jobs protected and “much needed” wages have been paid “even as the doors of workplaces remained firmly bolted.”
The PM said “the people of the UK have always achieved more as four than as one” and added the union is more than a “marriage of convenience – and we are there for each other in sickness and in health.”
‘Days of telling Scotland you’re too twee, poor and stupid are over’ – Blackford
Johnson’s message “is going to go down particularly badly in Scotland”, said Ian Blackford, the Westminster leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP). He asked if the PM was “really saying that any other small nation in Europe and any other part of the world doesn’t have the capability to deal with the Covid crisis?
“I think the days of telling Scotland that we are either too wee, too poor or too stupid really is over,” continued Blackford.
“I think what we’ve demonstrated over the past two months in the areas of devolved responsibility and of public health is that the leadership that has been shown by our first minister is in sharp contrast with the bluster we have seen from Boris Johnson.”
Sturgeon confirmed during her press conference that she had no plans to meet with the prime minister during his trip and added she expected Johnson to adhere to Scotland’s hygiene and social distancing guidance.