Boris Johnson: Union 'more than showed its worth' during Covid crisis

Simon Johnson
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers a speech during his visit to Dudley College of Technology in Dudley - AFP

Boris Johnson has pledged to dual the entire A1 on the English side of the Border and declared the Union "more than showed its worth" during lockdown.

The Prime Minister said that "now is the moment to strengthen that incredible partnership between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland" by building transport connections between them.

He said he would make good a 1992 promise to dual the A1 to Scotland, which is single carriageway through large stretches of Northumberland.

Nicola Sturgeon said she would "scrutinise" doing the same on the Scottish side but expressed scepticism whether the UK Government would provide any "additional hard cash".

In an apparent reference to his plan for a bridge or tunnel between Scotland and Northern Ireland, Mr Johnson also pledged that a study will be conducted "of all future road, rail, air and cross-sea links between all our four parts of the UK."

Scotland/England border on the A1 - Stephen Barnes/UK / Alamy Stock Photo

The Prime Minister said it was the “might of the United Kingdom Treasury” which had saved jobs and businesses through the furlough scheme, which has supported more than 750,000 jobs in Scotland.

He highlighted the role of the "fantastic UK armed services", which he said had been "running the test centres, building the hospitals, transporting people from the Shetlands to the right Covid wards."

It also emerged that Mr Johnson had created a new Cabinet group to draw up policies to strengthen the Union. The Union Policy Implementation committee will "support the delivery of the Government's priorities in relation to the Union of the United Kingdom".

Chaired by Michael Gove, its other members are the Chancellor and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish secretaries.

Mr Johnson said: "I believe the Union has more than showed its worth and a prosperous and united kingdom must be a connected kingdom."

Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary, said the speech demonstrated "the UK Government’s unwavering commitment to strengthening the Union and boosting further the UK’s internal market."

Nicola Sturgeon said he was underwhelmed by Boris Johnson's speech - AFP

Mr Sturgeon insisted that her focus was on tackling the virus rather than constitutional politics but added that voters would take into account the relative performances of the Scottish and UK governments during the crisis when deciding about independence.

She said she was "extremely underwhelmed" by Mr Johnson's pledge to to "build, build, build" Britain's way out of the coronavirus crisis and does not expect Scotland to receive any extra funding.

"This is simply shuffling around money that was already in the system and I don't think that is commensurate with the scale of the challenge that we face," she added.