British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (file photo). Photograph:( Reuters )
The bonds holding the United Kingdom together have been severely strained over the last five years by Brexit and the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, and 14 recent polls have shown a majority of Scots now support independence
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the devolution of powers to Scotland “a disaster”, a comment that played into the hands of Scottish nationalists pushing for an independence referendum that opinion polls suggest they could win.
Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon, who is First Minister in the devolved parliament, tweeted late Monday that it was "worth bookmarking these PM comments for the next time Tories say they're not a threat to the powers of the Scottish Parliament.
Worth bookmarking these PM comments for the next time Tories say they’re not a threat to the powers of the Scottish Parliament - or, even more incredibly, that they support devolving more powers. The only way to protect & strengthen @ScotParl is with independence. https://t.co/Hk7DqoFeuY— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) November 16, 2020
The bonds holding the United Kingdom together have been severely strained over the last five years by Brexit and the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, and 14 recent polls have shown a majority of Scots now support independence.
In a video call on Friday with northern English lawmakers from his Conservative Party, Johnson said that devolution, introduced by Tony Blair had been the former prime minister’s “biggest mistake” and “a disaster”, media reported.
He also said he saw no case for giving Scotland’s semi-autonomous government and parliament, which are dominated by the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), any further powers in addition to the ones they hold now.
The prime minister's Downing Street office later said in a statement that Johnson had "always supported devolution but Tony Blair failed to foresee the rise of separatists in Scotland.
"Devolution is great -- but not when it's used by separatists and nationalists to break up the UK," added the statement.
Douglas Ross, who leads the Conservatives in Scotland, responded that "devolution has not been a disaster" and that "the SNP's non-stop obsession with another referendum - above jobs, schools and everything else - has been a disaster."
Scotland was promised a referendum on devolution by the Labour Party before the 1997 election, and the promise was carried out later that year, leading to the creation of a Scottish Parliament in 1999.
Scotland rejected independence in a 2014 referendum, but pressure for a new one has grown since Britain voted to leave the European Union in 2016, a decision opposed by most voters north of the border.
Johnson called the MPs from Downing Street, where he is self-isolating after coming into contact with an MP who later tested positive for coronavirus.