Nicola Sturgeon invites Boris Johnson for showdown talks

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Boris Johnson met Nicola Sturgeon at Bute House, Edinburgh, in 2019 - Stewart Attwood/EPA-EFE/REX
Boris Johnson met Nicola Sturgeon at Bute House, Edinburgh, in 2019 - Stewart Attwood/EPA-EFE/REX

Nicola Sturgeon has invited Boris Johnson for showdown talks in Edinburgh after it emerged that she is preparing to relaunch her push for Scottish independence.

The First Minister wrote to Mr Johnson on Monday suggesting a summit, hours after The Telegraph revealed that he was planning to visit Scotland this week as part of efforts to strengthen the Union.

In a letter released publicly on her Twitter account, Ms Sturgeon asked him to her Bute House residence, where he was met with loud boos from nationalist crowds the last time he visited and left by a back door.

While Mr Johnson's itinerary has not yet been released, Ms Sturgeon said his trip north would be "their first opportunity to meet in person for a while" and "might offer us an opportunity to meet in person in Edinburgh for a discussion on the current Covid situation and our respective plans for recovery".

While she acknowledged that she and Mr Johnson "differ politically", Ms Sturgeon stressed the Scottish and UK governments must "work together where we can". She did not explicitly mention the constitution in her invitation, but the leaders are expected to clash over independence in the coming months.

Ms Sturgeon was on Monday accused of breaking her promise to the Scottish people after it emerged that the SNP conference next month is to be heavily focused on separation. Plans for a new campaign to persuade Scots that breaking up the UK is "essential" to the country's recovery from the Covid crisis is top of a leaked draft agenda.

The second motion states that Ms Sturgeon must pull the trigger on her plan for Holyrood to legislate for its own independence vote at the earliest opportunity after the Covid crisis has passed. Other items are focused on renewed policy ideas that would be put to the public in a future independence vote.

The Scottish Tories said the plans showed Ms Sturgeon had gone back on a pre-election pledge to voters.

Donald Cameron, the party's constitution spokesman said: "Nicola Sturgeon vowed not to push for another divisive referendum for at least 100 days after the Scottish Parliament election. She's already broken that promise.

"This draft conference agenda shows that the SNP are blatantly working on breaking up the country. Instead of concentrating on Covid recovery and protecting jobs, they're plotting how to divide people at the worst possible moment, just as an economic crisis looms."

An SNP spokesman said: "The draft agenda for SNP conference contains a number of motions from grassroots members. Those that make the final agenda will be up for debate and may or may not be agreed by delegates.

"In the meantime, the SNP Scottish Government will continue with the job it was elected to do when it won an overwhelming victory in May's election."

The UK Government has repeatedly said it would refuse permission for a new referendum and has questioned Ms Sturgeon's mandate after the SNP fell one seat short of a majority in May. However, she claims there is clear backing for a new vote, with the Scottish Greens providing a pro-independence majority at Holyrood.

Should UK ministers stick to their guns, Ms Sturgeon has said she would seek to organise her own vote by passing a law at Holyrood, which would provoke a constitutional crisis that would almost certainly end up in the Supreme Court.

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