British Prime Minister Boris Johnson triggered anger Monday in Scotland when he called the decision to grant Scotland governing powers ”a disaster,” and said he did not support granting the nation any additional powers. The reported comments come as surveys show rising support for a second independence referendum.
British media report Johnson made the remarks in a virtual meeting with northern English lawmakers from his Conservative Party. He said granting Scotland self-governing powers – or devolution - introduced by former Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair, had been Blair’s ”biggest mistake.” Johnson's office did not deny the comment.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, proponent of an independence referendum, responded on Tuesday to Johnson’s comments via Twitter.
“Worth bookmarking these PM comments for the next time Tories (Conservatives) 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 (the Scottish parliament) is with independence.”
Scots rejected an independence referendum in 2014 by a vote of 55 to 45%. But relations have soured following the Brexit vote which Britain supported and Scotland rejected, and by what has been viewed by many Scots as the British government’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Recent public opinion surveys show a majority of Scots support independence.
British Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick sought to defend Johnson's comments, saying the disaster the prime minister referred to was the rise of nationalism in the form of Sturgeon's Scottish National Party.
SNP lawmaker Drew Henry said Johnson’s comments showed his and his party’s “contempt” for the people of Scotland.
“Effectively what they are saying is it’s alright for Scotland to have devolution as long as they vote for the Westminster party we want them to,” he told the BBC.