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Nicola Sturgeon says ‘bit odd’ for Boris Johnson to have snubbed meeting invite

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Boris Johnson has snubbed an invitation from Nicola Sturgeon to meet in Edinburgh during his two-day visit to Scotland.

Scotland’s first minister and SNP leader had invited Mr Johnson to meet at her official residence Bute House to discuss the ongoing recovery from the Covid crisis.

However, the prime minister has rejected the chance to meet with Ms Sturgeon – telling her in a letter that he wanted to focus on “structured” discussions with devolved leaders at a later date.

Ms Sturgeon responded to the letter by saying she did not “feel snubbed” – but claimed most people would find it “a bit odd” that the prime minister passed up the chance to meet during his trip.

“I think people will just find that strange, and it’s for Boris Johnson to explain why,” the first minister told broadcasters, adding that she had been “ready” to welcome him at Bute House.

“This would be the first opportunity, given Covid, for us to sit down, appropriately socially distanced, and have a face-to-face chat. I think it would have been a good opportunity. So, you know, missed opportunity – but that’s on him.”

Mr Johnson later denied turning down an invite to meet with Ms Sturgeon. Asked if he “snubbed” her invite, the prime minister told reporters: “No, I haven’t. I’m always delighted, always, always, always, delighted – and look, we, seriously, we work together.”

He also praised Ms Sturgeon’s government for achieving “a really high rate of vaccination here in Scotland, and really fantastic achievement by the people of Scotland coming forward to get vaccinated”.”

The prime also said he is “totally committed” to funding the high numbers of police officers needed for the Cop26 summit in Glasgow this November – explaining that the plan was to “backfill” by bringing in from around 7,000 officers from around the UK.

Mr Johnson said in his letter to Ms Sturgeon that it had been agreed at a previous meeting between them there would be a “structured forum for ongoing engagement” for the four nations of the UK.

Ms Sturgeon acknowledged in her own reply letter that she and Mr Johnson “differ politically” – but stressed the Scottish and UK governments must “work together” wherever possible.

Mr Johnson is believed to have dropped his plan to head to Scotland during the recent Holyrood election campaign, amid fears it could damage the Scottish Conservative Party’s fortunes.

But Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross denied the prime minister had been scared of heading north of the border. “The prime minister will be up here regularly – as will other members of his cabinet,” said Mr Ross.

Asked by Times Radio about surveys showing Mr Johnson’s unpopularity in Scotland, Mr Ross said: “The prime minister is aware of that polling. Every politician has support in some areas and not in others.”

It comes after Ms Sturgeon confirmed most of Scotland’s remaining coronavirus restrictions are to be scrapped from Monday – which she hailed as “perhaps the most significant date so far” in the pandemic.

Ms Sturgeon welcomed the announcement from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) about the expansion of the vaccine rollout and said the Scottish government “will get on with offering” the vaccine to all 16 and 17-year-olds as soon as possible.

The SNP leader said she “hoped evidence will allow JCVI to recommend vaccine for wider groups of young people in future”, having backed the idea of widening the rollout to 12 to 15-year-olds.

But Mr Johnson urged caution on any further expansion to young children, saying he would listen to the JCVI. “I think it’s very important that everybody in politics listens first to the clinicians and to the medical experts, and I would just urge all families thinking about this across the country to listen to the JCVI.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish government has called for more clarity on UK ministers’ plans to renegotiate the Northern Ireland protocol.

Scotland’s external affairs secretary Angus Robertson – who met with Brexit minister Lord Frost on Wednesday – said tensions between the UK government and the EU were of “great concern”.

Ahead of his meeting with Lord Frost, Mr Robertson said: “The entire issue could worsen the already damaging trade impact on Scotland of the UK government’s hard Brexit, and have wider ramifications for EU-UK relations, including further eroding trust.”

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