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Fri, 27 November 2020

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Boris Johnson Has Triggered Cross-Party Anger After Describing Devolution As "A Disaster North Of The Border"

Boris Johnson Has Triggered Cross-Party Anger After Describing Devolution As 'A Disaster North Of The Border'

The Prime Minister has come under fire over his remarks on devolution

3 min read

Boris Johnson has triggered a major backlash from Scottish politicians after he described devolution as a "disaster north of the border".

The Prime Minister made the controversial comments during a Zoom call with around 60 Conservative MPs on the Northern Research Group, where he reportedly described devolution as "Tony Blair's biggest mistake".

Speaking to the group on Monday evening, Mr Johnson said while he had supported the Scottish Parliament during his time as Mayor of London he did not currently "see a case" for giving Holyrood more powers.

His comments come amid growing calls for a second independence referendum, with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon repeatedly calling for further responsibilites to be devolved in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Responding to the reports, Ms Sturgeon tweeted: "Worth bookmarking these PM comments for the next time Tories say they're not a threat to the powers of the Scottish Parliament - or, even more incredibly, that they support devolving more powers.

"The only way to protect and strengthen [the Scottish Parliament] is with independence."

The Prime Minister's comments also prompted a rebuke from Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, who added: "Devolution has not been a disaster.

"The SNP's non-stop obsession with another referendum - above jobs, schools and everything else - has been a disaster."

The row puts further pressure on the relationship between Mr Johnson and the Scottish Tory leader, who has repeatedly criticised the national party for its "defeatism and disinterest" around the union.

But responding to the comments, housing secretary Robert Jenrick insisted Mr Johnson was not saying the creation of the Scottish Parliament was a "disaster".

"The Prime Minister has always supported devolution but he is at heart a unionist and he is very troubled by the rise of nationalism and separatism," he told Sky News.

"Whilst in some parts of the United Kingdom devolution has enabled local people to have greater say over their own destinies, one of the downsides in Scotland has been that it has been misused by the SNP to drive a wedge between those who want to be part of the same country with hundreds of years of history and friendship.

"The PM is very concerned about that.

"The disaster the Prime Minister is referring to is the rise of separatism and nationalism in the form of the SNP."

A No10 source told The Sun: "The PM has always supported devolution, but Tony Blair failed to foresee the rise of sepratists in Scotland.

"Devolution is great - but not when it's used by sepratists and nationalist to break up the UK."

Meanwhile, Labour's shadow Scotland secretary, said the comments confirmed Boris Johnson "doesn't believe in devolution and would put the future of the United Kingdom at risk."

He added: "His government should have been working in partnership with the devolved governments during this crisis. Instead, people across the UK have been paying the price for his failings."

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