PM talks up union’s role in tackling Covid before Scotland trip

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has questioned Boris Johnson's decision to travel to Scotland during pandemic.

PM talks up union’s role in tackling Covid before Scotland trip Getty ImagesGetty Images

Boris Johnson will use a visit to Scotland to argue that the union has been integral in administering the coronavirus vaccine, providing Covid testing and giving economic support north of the border during the pandemic.

The Prime Minister has spoken before his trip on Thursday about the “great benefits of co-operation” that the Union has brought while dealing with the coronavirus crisis, which has claimed more than 100,000 lives in the UK.

The visit comes as calls grow for a second independence vote for Scotland.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is arguing that should her SNP group win a majority at the Holyrood election – currently still scheduled for May – then that would be grounds for a new border poll.

The Scottish Parliament on Wednesday backed the idea of planning another independence referendum despite accusations it is “reckless and damaging” to do so during the coronavirus pandemic.

An SNP amendment to a Scottish Tories motion – stating “there can be no justification whatsoever to deny people in Scotland their democratic rights” if there is a pro-independence majority after May’s Holyrood election -passed by 65 votes to 56

Sturgeon, who has said Johnson’s visit to Scotland is “not essential” during the current lockdown, this week accused the Conservative Party leader of being “frightened of democracy” in his refusal to back another poll on the union, following 2014’s independence defeat.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 briefing on Wednesday, Sturgeon said: “I am not and never would be saying that Boris Johnson is not welcome in Scotland. He is the Prime Minister of the UK.

“But beyond that, everybody is welcome in Scotland. Well, maybe not a certain ex-president that I kind of suggested earlier on maybe rather didn’t come to Scotland, but I won’t divert down that road.

“Boris Johnson is not unwelcome in Scotland, even if I had the ability to stop him.”

Downing Street plans to stress the benefits of being in the UK for Scotland, with Johnson highlighting the support afforded Scots during the Covid-19 crisis.

Speaking ahead of his visit to Scotland, the Prime Minister said: “The great benefits of co-operation across the whole of the UK have never been clearer than since the beginning of this pandemic.

“We have pulled together to defeat the virus, providing £8.6bn to the Scottish Government to support public services whilst also protecting the jobs of more than 930,000 citizens in Scotland.

“We have a vaccine programme developed in labs in Oxford being administered across the United Kingdom by our armed forces, who are helping to establish 80 new vaccine centres across Scotland.

“That’s how we are delivering for the people of Scotland so we can ensure the strongest possible recovery from the virus.

“Mutual co-operation across the UK throughout this pandemic is exactly what the people of Scotland expect and it is what I have been focused on.

“The people of the UK have stood together during this pandemic: from our doctors and nurses in our hospitals to our shop workers, scientists, lorry drivers and teachers – working together as one truly United Kingdom is the best way to build our Covid recovery.”

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