Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday accused the Scottish National Party (SNP) of using devolution to campaign for the breakup of the United Kingdom, after being criticized himself for his “shocking” comments on the issue.
The PM has been blasted for reportedly telling Tory MPs earlier this week that “devolution has been a disaster north of the border.”
However, on Wednesday Johnson told the parliament “what has unquestionably been a disaster is the way in which the Scottish nationalist (National) party have taken and used devolution as a means… to constantly campaign for the breakup of our country.” The party is also trying “to turn devolution… into a mission to break up the UK,” he said.
Johnson’s spokesman on Tuesday did not deny the comments, saying, however, that the PM “has always fully supported” devolution. “He will always stand against those trying to separate the UK,” the spokesman said. “He is very clear that he rejects the SNP’s call to break up the UK.”
Voters in Scotland rejected independence by 55 to 45 percent in a 2014 referendum, but the SNP is expected to perform strongly in elections to the Scottish parliament in May, and Scotland’s First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is pushing for a second referendum. She said Johnson’s comments showed the Conservatives’ public statements of support for devolution were “duplicitous.”
Johnson received the sharpest criticism on Tuesday from the Welsh government, with its counsel-general and minister for European transition, Jeremy Miles, saying that “the PM’s comments are shocking but sadly not surprising.” The prime minister is also minister for the union, Miles noted. “But the conduct of his government is actually the biggest threat to the future of the union.”
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