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Boris Johnson under fire for incendiary comments on Scottish devolution

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Boris Johnson (R) appears to be preparing for a decisive showdown with Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (L) next year

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has been widely criticized for his chauvinistic and insensitive comments on Scottish devolution.

Johnson reportedly told a virtual meeting of Tory MPs that devolution had been a “disaster” in Scotland.

And in a swipe at former Labor PM, Tony Blair, Johnson described devolution as his “biggest mistake”.

Blair is widely credited for creating the conditions for Scottish and Welsh devolution in 1998, one year after he came to power.

According to the tabloid newspaper The Sun (November 17), Johnson made the incendiary comments during a Zoom meeting on Monday (November 16) with Conservative MPs representing dozens of seats in northern England.  

The pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) has led the fierce criticisms against Johnson’s disparaging comments on Scotland’s devolved powers.

Scotland’s First Minister, and SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon, implied in a tweet that the Tories pose a direct threat to the “powers of the Scottish Parliament”.

— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) November 16, 2020 ">http://

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 & strengthen @ScotParl is with independence.

— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) November 16, 2020

In addition, an influential SNP MP said the PM’s comments “underline the contempt that Boris Johnson and the Scottish Tories have for the people of Scotland”.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Drew Hendry, who represents the Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey constituency, added that: “Effectively what they [Tories] are saying is it’s alright for Scotland to have devolution as long as they vote for the Westminster party we want them to”.   

Meanwhile, Scottish Labor leader, Richard Leonard, described the PM’s comments as “Neanderthal” in so far as they “expose the underlying thinking and philosophy in Downing Street”.

Leonard told BBC News the PM’s comments are “reminiscent of the voices of Thatcherism and Majorism of the 1980s and 1990s, which were steadfastly opposed to devolution”.

"In my view, what Boris Johnson is doing is defying the popular will of the people of Scotland, and I don't think that's a very good place for any prime minister to be in", Leonard added.

Johnson even came under fire from sections of his own party, in particular former leading Tories with deep expertise on Scottish politics. 

Former Tory Scottish Secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, said the PM’s comments are "typical" of the "rather loose language" Johnson sometimes employs.

"What he should have said is devolution has become a disaster because the Scottish national government, the SNP government in Scotland, are using the Scottish Parliament and the power they've got to try and destroy the United Kingdom", Rifkind told BBC Radio 4's Today program.

But it is worth noting that the current Scottish Secretary, Alister Jack, appears to have the same hardline views on devolution as Johnson.

Earlier this month Jack dismissed the possibility of a fresh Scottish independence referendum “for a generation”.

The SNP is on course to secure a significant victory in next May’s Scottish Parliamentary election and is then expected to use that electoral success as a mandate to call for a new referendum on independence.

The latest opinion poll indicates that 58 percent of the Scottish electorate would vote YES in an independence referendum. 




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