Scottish Tories fume about PM’s ‘disastrous’ devolution comments as Scotland levels-up restrictions

Beyond England

Scottish Conservatives are furious about Boris Johnson’s latest gaffe saw him call devolution “a disaster” just months before the Holyrood election.

From his self-isolation in Downing Street the prime minister managed to send – via the power of a Zoom meeting with 67 Tory MPs comprising the Northern Research Group – political shock waves across the border, describing devolution as “Tony Blair’s biggest mistake”.

An unnamed “Tory source” told the Times: “Does he [the prime minister] not realise there’s an election coming up in six months?

“It just writes the SNP’s leaflets for them: why are you standing for a parliament your leader doesn’t believe should exist?”

Leader of the Scottish Tories Douglas Ross “has made representations to Downing Street” over the prime minister’s comments, which the Independent described as “just the latest grenade Johnson has thrown at himself”.

Sturgeon ‘truly sorry’ for ‘necessary’ level 4

Nicola Sturgeon tweeted that the PM’s comments were “worth bookmarking” for the “next time Tories” deny being a threat to the devolved powers of the Scottish parliament “or, even more incredibly, that they support devolving more powers.”

The first minister was otherwise occupied with the coronavirus pandemic and announced today that 11 council areas – across central and western Scotland and including Glasgow – will go into level 4 restrictions from Friday (November 20). It will mean the equivalent of almost total lockdown for more than 2 million people, although schools will remain open.

Travel from and into level 3 and 4 areas in Scotland will be illegal from Friday. Sturgeon said she was “truly sorry” for having to make such decisions, and explained “these actions are necessary to get us to the other side.”

Sturgeon said she expects Scotland will be able to return towards normality thanks to “love and solidarity, with a lot of help from science”.

UK internal market bill – ‘an abomination’ threatening the union

The first minister’s handling of the pandemic contrasts sharply with Johnson’s whose approval rating in Scotland has always been low yet has plummeted even further through the course of the pandemic.

Covid has put the powers held by the devolved parliaments at the centre of media reporting and has strengthened the administrations’ demands for even greater autonomy, particularly on fiscal policy.

The sharp differences between Westminster and the devolved parliaments in Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff have been put at the top of the agenda by the PM’s comments – ahead of next year’s crucial elections.

And it will stay there given the fervent opposition to the unprecedented legislation the government is pushing through parliament.

The UK internal market bill – universally condemned for flagrantly breaking international law – is loathed by Sturgeon who described Johnson’s post-Brexit plans as “an abomination which would cripple devolution.”

In Wales, first minister Mark Drakeford called it an “outrageous power-grab” that “seriously imperils the devolution settlement”.

Northern Ireland’s powers are at similar risk but the internal market bill’s threat to the Good Friday Agreement is the number one concern on an extensive list of serious problems.

As US president-elect Joe Biden reminded Johnson very recently.


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