Boris Johnson set to launch £5m anti-independence ad blitz for Scotland
Boris Johnson is preparing to launch a £5m ad blitz in a bid to dampen support for a future Scottish independence referendum.
The Prime Minister will reportedly kick off a major campaign to talk up the benefits of the Union amid growing calls for Scotland to be granted a second vote in the wake of Brexit.
In a speech on Friday, ahead of the UK's exit from the EU, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said people north of the border felt "real and profound sadness" as she outlined her hopes for an independent Scotland to rejoin the EU.
Scottish voters had backed the UK staying as part of the European Union by 62% to 38% in 2016.
But Mr Johnson hopes the taxpayer-funded ad campaign, reportedly set to launch around Valentine's Day, will convince voters in Scotland that they are better off remaining as part of the UK.
Adverts talking up the common benefits of remaining in the Union are expected to run for around a year, appearing in cinemas, as well as on TV, radio and digital platforms.
The campaign is set to coincide with the publication of a review by Conservative peer Lord Dunlop into new ways to strengthen the Union, established by former Prime Minister Theresa May.
According to the Sunday Times, the report is expected to recommend better visibility of the government in devolved regions, including senior ministers holding meetings in areas outside London.
But it will stop short of recommending a new 'Department for the Union'.
Meanwhile, a government source told the paper of real fears inside Number 10 over the potential disruption of a second referendum, saying: "There is a consensus in Downing Street that this is the one issue - perhaps after Brexit - that could derail Johnson's premiership."
It comes amid a claim there is real "empathy" for Nicola Sturgeon's ambitions to obtain full EU membership for Scotland among European leaders.
In an interview set to shown on the Andrew Marr show, former European Council president Donald Tusk said membership for an independent Scotland would not be guaranteed, but added he felt "very Scottish, especially after Brexit".
All 27 remaining EU member states would be required to accept any prospective application from an independent Scotland, but Spain and Belgium could block the plans over concerns about independence movements in their own countries.
Pressed on the prospect of Scotland's future relationship with the bloc, the former senior EU leader said he wanted to "respect the internal debate in the United Kingdom".
But he added: "Emotionally I have no doubt that everyone will be enthusiastic here in Brussels, and more generally in Europe.
"If you ask me about our emotions, you will witness I think always empathy"