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Johnson says devolving powers to Scotland was 'a disaster'; sparks anger

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, jumped on them, arguing that the Conservatives' public statements of support for devolution were duplicitous

Boris Johnson | scotland | UK

Estelle Shirbon & Guy Faulconbridge | Reuters  |  London 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
He also said he saw no case for giving Scotland's semi-autonomous government and parliament | Photo: AP/PTI

British Prime Minister called the devolution of powers to “a disaster”, a comment that played into the hands of Scottish nationalists pushing for an independence referendum that opinion polls suggest they could win.

The bonds holding the United Kingdom together have been severely strained over the past five years by and the government's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, and 14 recent polls have shown a majority of Scots now support independence.

In a video call on Friday with northern English lawmakers from his Conservative Party, Johnson said that devolution, introduced by Tony Blair, had been the former prime minister's “biggest mistake” and “a disaster”, media reported. He also said he saw no case for giving Scotland's semi-autonomous government and parliament, which are dominated by the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), any further powers in addition to the ones they hold now. Johnson's office did not deny the comments.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, jumped on them, arguing that the Conservatives’ public statements of support for devolution were duplicitous.”Worth bookmarking these PM comments for the next time Tories (Conservatives) say they're not a threat to the powers of the Scottish Parliament — or, even more incredibly, that they support devolving more powers,” she said on Twitter.

Independence is the only way to protect and strengthen the Scottish parliament, she added. In a sign of the nervousness that Johnson’s comments caused among Scots who support staying part of the United Kingdom, the Conservative leader in Scotland, Douglas Ross, immediately contradicted the prime minister. “Devolution has not been a disaster,” he said on Twitter. “The SNP’s non-stop obsession with another referendum — above jobs, schools and everything else — has been a disaster.”

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First Published: Tue, November 17 2020. 22:50 IST