SNP’s independence talk used to divert attention from domestic issues – PM

Craig Paton, PA Scotland Political Reporter
·3-min read

The Prime Minister has accused the SNP of pushing for another independence referendum in order to divert from domestic problems.

During a visit to Scotland, Boris Johnson said the Scottish Government has not been “notably successful” in education or preventing record drug deaths figures.

The SNP released its roadmap to a second vote on independence at the weekend, which states a ballot will be called if a pro-independence majority is elected at Holyrood in May’s election.

Mr Johnson was reluctant to take aim at the SNP, saying “these are difficult criticisms for me to make because I’m Prime Minister of the whole of the UK”.

But he added: “It is, alas, a fact that the SNP Government has not been notably successful in delivering good results on education or on tackling drugs, and in many other ways.

“I think it’s a mark of their general diversionary tactics that they continue to talk about a referendum rather than about domestic political concerns, which I think are the crucial things.”

The Prime Minister also said there remains unanswered questions on how an independent Scotland would function, in particular around security, currency and the monarchy.

“People are endlessly going on about a referendum, even though we had one in 2014,” he said.

“What’s it intended to deliver? What happens to the pound? What happens to the foreign service? What happens to the Army? What happens to the Queen? What happens to our security services?

“None of these questions – fundamental to statehood – have been asked or answered.

“To say you want a referendum is like saying you don’t mind what you eat provided you eat it with a spoon.”

Boris Johnson carrying out a coronavirus test
The Prime Minister was speaking during a visit to Scotland (Wattie Cheung/Daily Mail/PA)

The Scottish Government’s 670-page white paper on independence released prior to the 2014 vote said the Queen would remain head of state, and a defence force would be set up using existing personnel and assets it said would be “inherited”.

Four different currency options, including the continued use of the pound, were floated.

Mr Johnson reiterated that the 2014 vote, which saw Scots vote to remain part of the UK by 55% to 45%, was a “once in a generation event” – something repeatedly said by both sides ahead of the referendum.

He added: “Let’s take them at their word, all those on both sides of the argument who said that, and let’s concentrate on what I think the people of this country want, which is to work together, defeat Covid and bounce back better together, build back better together.

“That’s what I think most people across the country want us to achieve.”

Earlier on Thursday, SNP deputy leader Keith Brown said the Prime Minister was “rattled”.

He added: “By branding this campaign trip as ‘essential’, this is clearly a Prime Minister in panic who knows the Tories are losing the argument on independence.

“Twenty polls in a row have shown that a majority of voters believe Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands – not Boris Johnson’s.