PM hails ‘sheer might’ of union ahead of visit to Scotland

Boris Johnson will arrive in Scotland on Thursday for the first time since December's general election.

PM hails ‘sheer might’ of union ahead of visit to Scotland Getty Images

The “sheer might” of the UK has been shown during the coronavirus pandemic, the Prime Minister has said, ahead of a visit to Scotland.

Boris Johnson will arrive in the country on Thursday, ahead of the one-year anniversary of his first day in Downing Street on Friday.

During his visit – his first to Scotland since the general election in December – the PM will meet with businesses hit by the pandemic, those working in green energy and military personnel to thank them for their efforts in the response to Covid-19.

There are no plans to meet with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who said at her regular coronavirus briefing on Wednesday that she would be willing to meet him.

Johnson has pledged £50m for Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles to develop the economy of the islands as part of a growth deal.

The Scottish Government said it will invest the same amount in the islands, meaning every area in Scotland will now receive funding from the joint UK and Scottish government initiatives.

Ahead of the visit, the Prime Minister said: “When I stood on the steps of Downing Street one year ago, I pledged to be a Prime Minister for every corner of the United Kingdom.

“Whether you are from East Kilbride or Dumfries, Motherwell or Paisley, I promised to level up across Britain and close the opportunity gap.

“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.”

The Prime Minister’s visit comes after a surge in support for Scottish independence in recent months according to polls, with two Panelbase surveys reporting 54% of respondents would like to see Scotland split from the UK.

The same polls predicted the SNP will win a majority of seats in the Scottish Parliament at next year’s election.

Then-prime minister David Cameron agreed to stage the independence vote in 2014 after the SNP won a majority at Holyrood in the 2011 election, however Johnson has repeatedly ruled out another referendum.

Ahead of Thursday’s visit, the Prime Minister praised the work of the armed forces in running mobile coronavirus testing centres in Scotland and providing air transfers support.

He added: “The UK Treasury stepped in to save the jobs of a third of Scotland’s entire workforce and kept the wolves at bay for tens of thousands of Scottish businesses.

“More than ever, this shows what we can achieve when we stand together, as one United Kingdom.”

Scottish secretary Alister Jack said: “The city region and growth deals will be crucial to our economic recovery from coronavirus.

“Today’s announcement means that every corner of Scotland will benefit from these and takes the UK Government’s investment in growth deals across Scotland to more than £1.5bn.” 

“These deals are just part of the unprecedented support that the UK Government is providing to people and businesses in Scotland during this time.

“We have supported 900,000 jobs in Scotland with our furlough and self-employed schemes, including 11,600 across the islands. 

“We look forward to working with our partners across the islands and the devolved administration in Scotland to develop innovative and effective proposals.”