PM visits Scotland to promote the union but Scots increasingly eye independence

Boris Johnson is visiting Scotland claiming the "sheer might of our union" has strengthened the fight against coronavirus north of the border. In a trip billed as kick-starting a campaign to save the union, he will tell Scots that if they stick with Britain they will continue to benefit from huge economic support. But the prime minister's first visit to Scotland since last December's election comes as opinion polls suggest a surge in support for independence, with backing for separation now at 54%. He is pledging £50m to Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, to help develop the islands' economic potential, with handouts for space technology and renewable energy. And during his visit, the PM is also meeting members of the military based in Scotland - and their families - to thank them for their ongoing work in the coronavirus response. Advertisement At this week's cabinet meeting, Mr Johnson ordered his ministers to make more visits to Scotland and boost their low public profiles there in the fight against independence. But the PM's own visit has been derided by senior Scottish National Party figures, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who turned 50 on Sunday, joking after the latest poll: "Nice of Boris to send me a birthday pressie." More from Politics Speaking ahead of his visit, Mr Johnson said: "When I stood on the steps of Downing Street one year ago, I pledged to be a prime minister for every corner of the United Kingdom. "Whether you are from East Kilbride or Dumfries, Motherwell or Paisley, I promised to level up across Britain and close the opportunity gap. Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker "The last six months have shown exactly why the historic and heartfelt bond that ties the four nations of our country together is so important and the sheer might of our union has been proven once again. "In Scotland, the UK's magnificent armed forces have been on the ground doing vital work to support the NHS, from setting up and running mobile testing sites to airlifting critically ill patients to hospitals from some of Scotland's most remote communities. "And the UK Treasury stepped in to save the jobs of a third of Scotland's entire workforce and kept the wolves at bay for tens of thousands of Scottish businesses. "More than ever, this shows what we can achieve when we stand together, as one United Kingdom." Supporting the prime minister's claim that the union has been good for Scots, the government said the Treasury has protected more than 900,000 jobs in Scotland and granted thousands of loans to businesses. In addition, the UK's armed forces have airlifted critically ill patients from some of the most remote communities, helped convert temporary hospitals and run mobile testing sites. The government also claimed the Department of Health and Social Care had procured millions of pieces of PPE to keep Scottish frontline workers safe, on top of £4.6bn given to the Scottish administration to help tackle coronavirus. Nicola Sturgeon: UK government is 'shambolic' But on the eve of the PM's visit, Ms Sturgeon said: "I have no plans to meet the prime minister tomorrow. I am always happy to meet the prime minister if he wants to do so. "We are all very focused on the immediate priority of continuing to suppress COVID and I look forward to working with the UK government on that basis. "We've got political disagreements, we've got disagreements over aspects of Scotland and the UK's future and I am sure we will continue to discuss those constructively as well." At Westminster, the all-party Scottish Affairs Committee of MPs published an interim report on intergovernmental working during the coronavirus pandemic, claiming it is having a "profound impact on devolution". Image: Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been calling for a second independence referendum The committee's chairman, SNP MP Pete Wishart said: "The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on both Scotland's health and economy. It is also profoundly affecting devolution as the response to the crisis reveals the pre-existing creaking mechanisms. "The overlapping responsibilities of policy areas operated by Westminster and Holyrood in the pandemic response make intergovernmental commu

PM visits Scotland to promote the union but Scots increasingly eye independence
Boris Johnson is visiting Scotland claiming the "sheer might of our union" has strengthened the fight against coronavirus north of the border. In a trip billed as kick-starting a campaign to save the union, he will tell Scots that if they stick with Britain they will continue to benefit from huge economic support. But the prime minister's first visit to Scotland since last December's election comes as opinion polls suggest a surge in support for independence, with backing for separation now at 54%. He is pledging £50m to Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, to help develop the islands' economic potential, with handouts for space technology and renewable energy. And during his visit, the PM is also meeting members of the military based in Scotland - and their families - to thank them for their ongoing work in the coronavirus response. Advertisement At this week's cabinet meeting, Mr Johnson ordered his ministers to make more visits to Scotland and boost their low public profiles there in the fight against independence. But the PM's own visit has been derided by senior Scottish National Party figures, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who turned 50 on Sunday, joking after the latest poll: "Nice of Boris to send me a birthday pressie." More from Politics Speaking ahead of his visit, Mr Johnson said: "When I stood on the steps of Downing Street one year ago, I pledged to be a prime minister for every corner of the United Kingdom. "Whether you are from East Kilbride or Dumfries, Motherwell or Paisley, I promised to level up across Britain and close the opportunity gap. Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker "The last six months have shown exactly why the historic and heartfelt bond that ties the four nations of our country together is so important and the sheer might of our union has been proven once again. "In Scotland, the UK's magnificent armed forces have been on the ground doing vital work to support the NHS, from setting up and running mobile testing sites to airlifting critically ill patients to hospitals from some of Scotland's most remote communities. "And the UK Treasury stepped in to save the jobs of a third of Scotland's entire workforce and kept the wolves at bay for tens of thousands of Scottish businesses. "More than ever, this shows what we can achieve when we stand together, as one United Kingdom." Supporting the prime minister's claim that the union has been good for Scots, the government said the Treasury has protected more than 900,000 jobs in Scotland and granted thousands of loans to businesses. In addition, the UK's armed forces have airlifted critically ill patients from some of the most remote communities, helped convert temporary hospitals and run mobile testing sites. The government also claimed the Department of Health and Social Care had procured millions of pieces of PPE to keep Scottish frontline workers safe, on top of £4.6bn given to the Scottish administration to help tackle coronavirus. Nicola Sturgeon: UK government is 'shambolic' But on the eve of the PM's visit, Ms Sturgeon said: "I have no plans to meet the prime minister tomorrow. I am always happy to meet the prime minister if he wants to do so. "We are all very focused on the immediate priority of continuing to suppress COVID and I look forward to working with the UK government on that basis. "We've got political disagreements, we've got disagreements over aspects of Scotland and the UK's future and I am sure we will continue to discuss those constructively as well." At Westminster, the all-party Scottish Affairs Committee of MPs published an interim report on intergovernmental working during the coronavirus pandemic, claiming it is having a "profound impact on devolution". Image: Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been calling for a second independence referendum The committee's chairman, SNP MP Pete Wishart said: "The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on both Scotland's health and economy. It is also profoundly affecting devolution as the response to the crisis reveals the pre-existing creaking mechanisms. "The overlapping responsibilities of policy areas operated by Westminster and Holyrood in the pandemic response make intergovernmental communication absolutely critical in effectively controlling the spread of the virus. "This was the cornerstone of the 'four-nation' approach that served so effectively at the start of the crisis. "But as the focus has shifted from containment to opening-up the economy we are concerned that the structures that made this possible have stopped. "We heard that there is a 'void' in ministerial-level communication and which appears to have occurred around the time that some divergence and confusion in messaging began to emerge. "Simple mistakes of not making clear which nations in which new policies apply must not be made again."