politics

Boris Johnson set to visit Scotland this week in bid to save union, say reports


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oris Johnson is set to visit Scotland this week in a bit to save the union, according to reports.

The Sun newspaper said he would use the trip to press the benefits of being in the United Kingdom. The Standard has contacted No10 for comment. 

It comes after Nicola Sturgeon threatened to hold a wildcat independence referendum on Scottish independence.

Speaking at a vaccination centre in London today, Mr Johnson said the advantages of the union “speak for themselves” as he sidestepped a question on whether he would legally challenge a wildcat referendum.

The Prime Minister was asked if he would legally challenge any plans by Ms Sturgeon to hold an advisory independence vote if the SNP wins a majority in May’s Holyrood elections.

He replied: “The whole UK is going through a pandemic, I think what the people of the UK want to see is everybody focusing on beating that pandemic, which we are, rolling out the vaccine, and getting ready to bounce back from that pandemic and have the strongest possible economic recovery.

“I think people also can see everywhere in the UK the visible benefits of our wonderful union.

“A vaccine programme that is being rolled out by a National Health Service, a vaccine that was developed in labs in Oxford and is being administered by the British Army, so I think the strengths and advantages of the Union speak for themselves.”

Meanwhile, Gordon Brown said he was confident Scotland will still be part of the UK in a decade but warned Mr Johnson not to “battle” with the regions.

The former prime minister said the inequalities between the regions must be addressed because people in outlying areas feel like they are being treated as “second class citizens”.

It comes after opinion polls of the four nations, published by the Sunday Times, found that a majority of voters think Scotland is likely to be independent in the next 10 years.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

/ PA )

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme if he was confident Scotland would still be part of the union in a decade, Mr Brown replied: “Yes, I am, but it’s got to be by change within the United Kingdom.”

He is urging the PM to consider ideas such as replacing the House of Lords with a “senate of the regions” and to set up a commission on democracy to review how the UK is governed.

Mr Brown added: “I do think that Boris Johnson has not quite understood how deep the resentment is, how the lack of trust is causing him a problem about his acceptability in different parts of the country.  

“His job is to unite the country, to bring people together – that’s what a prime minister has got to do.  

“He shouldn’t be in a battle between the centre and the different regions and nations. He should be trying to bring people together.”

Pressed on whether Nicola Sturgeon would have a democratic mandate for another referendum if the SNP win at the May elections, he replied: “No, I don’t think so, because people in Scotland are worried about the virus, they are worried about jobs, they are worried about the future of young people. This is their priority at the moment.”

Sturgeon says Johnson is ‘frightened of democracy’

She called the Prime Minister a ‘timorous beastie’

Nicola Sturgeon said Boris Johnson is “frightened of democracy” on the question of another referendum on Scottish independence.

She quoted Robert Burns during an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, saying the Prime Minister’s opposition to a second referendum reminded her of the poet’s “timorous beastie”.

She was asked about the PM’s suggestion there should be a 40-year gap between the last independence referendum and any future one and replied: “It’s Robert Burns’ birthday tomorrow, our annual Burns Day.

“And when I hear Boris Johnson talk about this I bring to mind a Burns poem: ‘Cowerin’ timorous beastie, what a panic’s in thy breastie’.

“He’s frightened of democracy. The polls now show that a majority of people in Scotland now want independence.”

Asked if she would hold an advisory “home-made Scottish referendum” if the SNP wins in the upcoming election, she said: “I want to have a legal referendum, that’s what I’m going to seek the authority of the Scottish people for in May. And if they give me that authority that’s what I intend to do.”

The former Labour PM also wrote today that the UK risks becoming a “failed state” unless it makes reforms to the Union.

In Scotland, the ST poll found that 49 per cent backed independence compared with 44 per cent against – a margin of 52 per cent to 48 per cent if the undecideds are excluded.

A Cabinet spokesman said the public in Scotland want to see the UK’s politicians “working in partnership to focus on defeating coronavirus”.

He added: “That remains the top priority of the UK Government, which has supported jobs and businesses across all four nations throughout the pandemic.

“The question of Scottish independence was settled decisively in 2014, when Scotland voted to remain part of the UK.

“Now, more than ever, we should be pulling together to strengthen our United Kingdom, instead of trying to separate it.”



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