Boris deals blow to Sturgeon’s indy dream with trip highlighting ‘great benefits’ of Union

Boris Johnson slams SNP on independence wish during pandemic

The Prime Minister is to emphasise his Government’s multi-billion pound UK-wide financial support to help businesses and employees through the pandemic. He will also point to the key role played by the Armed Forces in rolling out Covid vaccines. His high-profile visit follows renewed demands from Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her SNP allies for a rerun of the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence.

Ahead of his visit, Mr Johnson said: “The great benefits of cooperation 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 £8.6billion 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.

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“Mutual cooperation across the UK throughout this pandemic is exactly what the people of Scotland expect and it is what I have been focussed 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.”

Ms Sturgeon on Wednesday attacked the Prime Minister’s planned visit as an example of “non essential travel” during the pandemic.

Speaking at her daily televised virus briefing the Scottish First Minister said: “I am not and never would be saying that Boris Johnson is not welcome in Scotland. He’s the Prime Minister of the UK.

“Boris Johnson is not unwelcome in Scotland even if I had the ability to stop him. That’s not what this is about.

“But we’re living in a global pandemic, and every day right now I stand, look down the camera and say what I’m about to say – Boris Johnson does it, I heard him do it as recently as yesterday – don’t travel unless it is really essential. Work from home if you possibly can.

“That has to apply to all of us. People like me and Boris Johnson have to be in work for reasons that I think most people understand, but we don’t have to travel across the UK as part of that.

“Is that really essential right now? Because we have a duty to lead by example. If we are going to suggest that we don’t take these rules as seriously as we should, it gets harder to convince other people.

“So that’s why I perhaps am not ecstatic about the thought of the Prime Minister visiting.”

She added: “I’m sure he and his advisers will take great care to make sure he’s not breaking any laws, I take that as read. But we all have to make judgements on what we genuinely think is essential right now.

“I think that applies not just to cross-Border travel but to travel within our respective countries.”

UK Government officials said the British Armed Forces were helping to establish 80 new vaccine centres in Scotland.

A third of Scottish ambulance calls were being taken by centres in England over the weekend, following a high level of staff absence for call handlers in the Scottish Ambulance Service related to Covid-19, with ongoing mutual aid.

The UK Government has now also delivered over one million rapid lateral flow test kits to Scotland so far and is funding sites across Scotland – including seven drive-through testing centres, and 27 walk-though sites, as well as funding 21 mobile testing units, and the Lighthouse Lab in Glasgow. Overall, the UK Government has provided 62 per cent of testing kits in Scotland, officials said.

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