Boris Johnson slams Nicola Sturgeon for focusing on a new independence vote instead of coronavirus after she threatened to hold a referendum whether he agrees or not
- SNP threatened to unilaterally call a new referendum on splitting up the UK
- Sturgeon claimed the PM ‘fears the verdict and the will of the Scottish people’
- He said Scots ‘want to see everybody focusing on beating the pandemic’
Boris Johnson slapped down Nicola Sturgeon’s demands for a new Scottish independence referendum today, saying she should be totally focused on fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
The Prime Minister lashed out at Scotland’s First Minister after her Scottish National Party threatened to unilaterally call a new referendum on splitting up the United Kingdom.
Ms Sturgeon used an interview yesterday to claim Mr Johnson ‘fears the verdict and the will of the Scottish people’ and, ahead of Burns Night tonight, quoted one of his works to accuse the PM of being a ‘wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie’.
On a visit to a vaccination centre in north London today, Mr Johnson sidestepped a question about whether he would legally challenge Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s plans for an advisory independence referendum if the SNP wins a majority in May’s Holyrood elections.
‘The whole UK is going through a pandemic, I think what the people of the UK want to see is everybody focusing on beating that pandemic, which we are, rolling out the vaccine, and getting ready to bounce back from that pandemic and have the strongest possible economic recovery,’ he said.
‘I think people also can see everywhere in the UK the visible benefits of our wonderful union.
‘A vaccine programme that is being rolled out by a National Health Service, a vaccine that was developed in labs in Oxford and is being administered by the British Army, so I think the strengths and advantages of the Union speak for themselves.’
The Prime Minister (pictured today in north London) lashed out at Scotland’s First Minister after her Scottish National Party threatened to unilaterally call a new referendum on splitting up the United Kingdom.
Ms Sturgeon used an interview yesterday to claim Mr Johnson ‘fears the verdict and the will of the Scottish people’
A poll in the Sunday Times shows indicates a vote for independence would have the backing of the Scottish people and that a referendum should be held in the next five years
His comments come after The Sunday Times published the results of opinion polls in the four nations of the UK, which found a majority of voters thought Scotland was likely to be independent in the next 10 years.
In Scotland, the poll found that 49 per cent backed independence compared with 44 per cent against – a margin of 52 per cent to 48 per cent if the undecideds are excluded.
The SNP has unveiled an 11-point roadmap to splitting the UK, including a Catalonia-style wildcat vote that would effectively force a drastic response from the Prime Minister to stop it having legal effect.
Ms Sturgeon is vowing that a referendum will be held if there is a pro-independence majority at Holyrood after May’s elections – where her party is on track to get a landslide.
Jubilant SNP MPs said they wanted to ‘focus on undermining the union’, even though all sides made clear the 2014 vote would settle the issue ‘for a generation’.
The separatists lost that contest by 55 per cent to 45 per cent, but polls have been consistently showing that a majority north of the border would now vote to break away.
Under the blueprint, Ms Sturgeon would demand that Mr Johnson agree to a ‘Section 30’ order that paves the way to a second independence referendum.
The PM has pledged to refuse such a request. But for the first time, the SNP has said it will then hold a referendum anyway, forcing Mr Johnson to make it legal or take the Scottish Government to court to stop it.
UK Government sources said it would be more likely to ignore a referendum, although that would lead to huge political fallout.
It came as former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown warned that Britain risks becoming a ‘failed state’ unless it makes reforms to the union.
He urged Boris Johnson to consider reforms like replacing the House of Lords with a ‘senate of the regions’ and to review the way the UK is governed.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Brown said that ‘the choice is now between a reformed state and a failed state’, and the Government should use the Armed Forces and NHS to demonstrate the ‘everyday benefits’ of the union.
Mr Brown called on the Prime Minister to set up a commission on democracy which would review how the UK is governed
He writes: ‘The commission will discover that the United Kingdom urgently needs a forum of the nations and regions that brings them and BorisJohnson together on a regular basis.
‘No country can have national integration without political inclusion, and the commission might start by learning from the experience of countries like Australia, Canada, Germany and America where, partly because of British influence in times past, second chambers are senates of their regions, and minorities who can easily be outvoted are guaranteed a stronger voice.’
Britain risks becoming a ‘failed state’ unless it makes reforms to the union, former prime minister Gordon Brown has warned
A Cabinet spokesman said the public in Scotland want to see the UK’s politicians ‘working in partnership to focus on defeating coronavirus’.
‘That remains the top priority of the UK Government, which has supported jobs and businesses across all four nations throughout the pandemic,’ he added.
‘The question of Scottish independence was settled decisively in 2014, when Scotland voted to remain part of the UK.
‘Now more than ever, we should be pulling together to strengthen our United Kingdom, instead of trying to separate it’.
The Sunday Times poll found that in Northern Ireland, 47 per cent still want to remain in the UK, with 42 per cent in favour of a United Ireland and a significant proportion – 11 per cent – undecided.
However, asked if they supported a referendum on a United Ireland within the next five years, 51 per cent said yes compared with 44 per cent who were against.
In Wales, where support for independence is traditionally weakest, 23 per cent still backed leaving the UK while 31 per cent supported a referendum.
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