PRIME Minister Boris Johnson is facing a furious backlash over his visit to Scotland today. He has ignored criticism of the trip from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who has said it does not fall into the category of ‘’’essential travel’’.
The Prime Minister arrived in Glasgow by military aircraft this morning. He visited the Lighthouse Laboratory at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, which processes Covid tests from Scotland and other parts of the UK.
The visit is part of a panicking Conservative UK government’s fight back against growing support for independence.
It comes on the same day as the Scottish government sets out its budget plans for the year ahead. According to Finance Secretary Kate Forbes this afternoon’s announcement will ”be the most important in the history of devolution”.
Ms Sturgeon said on Wednesday she was ‘’not ecstatic’’ about Johnson’s plan to travel during lockdown and that political leaders should abide by the same restrictions that are imposed on the general public.
People like me and Boris Johnson have to be in work for reasons people understand but we don’t have to travel across the UK. We have a duty to lead by example
She told a press briefing on Wednesday: ‘’We are living in a global pandemic and every day I stand and look down the camera and say ‘don’t travel unless it is 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 people understand but we don’t have to travel across the UK. We have a duty to lead by example.’’
Ms Sturgeon added that she had herself rejected a suggestion that she visited a vaccine centre in Aberdeen for that reason.
The Prime Minister has notoriously low popularity ratings in Scotland. A poll carried out by Panelbase for Business for Scotland last August found that 83% of Scots are more likely to support independence due to Johnson.
A poll published by the Sunday Times last weekend said only 22% of Scots were satisfied with the Prime Minister’s response to Covid.
Despite that, Johnson will focus on the pandemic during today’s visit. He said before arriving: ‘’The great benefits of co-operation across the whole of the UK have never been clearer since the beginning of this pandemic.’’
He was speaking just days after the UK recorded more than 100,000 deaths from Covid-19, one of only five countries in the world to do so.
Downing Street has responded to criticism of Johnson’s trip to Scotland by insisting that it is important that the Prime Minister should be ‘’visible and accessible’’ across the whole of the UK during the pandemic.
The real reason for the visit is that Westminster is panicking over the support for independence which has been recorded in 20 successive opinion polls.
The increase in support is being driven, at least in part, by Scottish opposition to Brexit and by the different approaches to the pandemic adopted by the Holyrood and Westminster governments. Polls say a majority of Scots prefer the Holyrood approach.
Tory Minister Michael Gove has put together a five-point plan to ‘’save the union’’. This morning Mr Gove gave media interviews in which he made the startling claim that the Prime Minister was a ”huge asset” for Scotland.
The SNP has recently unveiled a roadmap to independence, which includes holding a legal referendum if it wins a majority in the Scottish elections in May even if Westminster continues to refuses to grant a Section 30 order, as it agreed to do for the 2014 referendum.
Allies in the 2014 Better Together pro-union campaign stood together to justify the Prime Minister’s trip. Labour leader Keir Starmer said today: ”I’m with the Prime Minister on this one.”