The Conservatives are the “only party that can cut the SNP down to size” in May’s Scottish elections, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted.
With the Nicola Sturgeon’s party using the Holyrood poll to push for another referendum on Scottish independence, the Prime Minister insisted the focus should instead be on efforts to rebuild the UK following the coronavirus pandemic.
He insisted the UK would defeat Covid-19 in the coming months, with the vaccination programme having “roared into life in every corner of this country”.
But Mr Johnson, who was addressing the Scottish Conservative conference, added that when the health crisis of the pandemic was over, “our job will only be half done”.
The Conservative leader insisted the “same spirit” that had been shown during the pandemic must then be focused “onto our economic recovery and building back better for the whole of the UK”.
He insisted: “We can build back better – but only if we all come together.”
He hit out at Ms Sturgeon’s party, saying: “The SNP want to divide us, to turn Scotland against itself, at this of all times.”
He told the conference: “I just find it incredible then that the SNP would choose this moment to again push their campaign for separation.
“Just when everything is beginning to reopen again, when we will soon be reunited with our friends and family, the SNP think that this is the time to turn us all against one another.
“To start another political fight.”
The Prime Minister continued: “Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised by this, it is their party’s obsession.
“Yet surely even they have a sense of priority, of what is important right now?”
He comments came less that two months before the next Scottish Parliament elections, which are due to take place on May 6.
The SNP are “intent on pushing for a referendum, regardless of the cost to Scotland and the whole of the UK,” in that vote, Mr Johnson said.
And he insisted only the Conservatives could “stop an SNP majority and their drive towards a second independence referendum”.
Mr Johnson hit out at the Labour Party, led by Sir Keir Starmer, saying he had to “pay for independent marketing advice to tell him that he shouldn’t be scared to be seen with the Union flag”.
The Prime Minister claimed: “Labour are too weak and they frankly cannot be trusted to stand up to the SNP.
“They would rather work with the SNP to be seen as anti-Conservative than stand up for the unity of the United Kingdom.
“We cannot put the future of our country in Labour’s hands, not in Edinburgh or in London.”
His comments came as he said how the UK Government had plans to “get our country moving again and deliver our economic recovery.”
Mr Johnson said there was a “pent-up tidal wave of opportunity and investment, ready to flow into Scotland to support your recovery from coronavirus”.
Speaking about how that will see the UK Government continue to back Scotland’s space and satellite sectors, he said they were “ensuring that even the final frontier is no limit to the UK Government’s ambitions for Scotland”.
Mr Johnson said: “I want all Scots to share in, to be a part of, and to drive our UK recovery.
“It is this great task that we will all need to be focused on, as we emerge from this pandemic.
“A collective effort that will require the efforts and strengths of every part of the United Kingdom.”
He added: “The SNP can see – after the impact of coronavirus – that people want time to renew their lives and to rebuild relationships that have become stretched.
“They know that workers are concerned primarily about their jobs and businesses are primarily concerned for their future.
“How can the SNP say that a referendum is the priority to them? It is the last thing they need right now.”
The Prime Minister continued: “Let’s not throw away this British spirit that we have seen and go back to the divisions of the past, forgetting our collective sacrifice.
“Let’s heal from coronavirus and move the whole of the United Kingdom forward.”