Prime Minister Boris Johnson is traveling on Thursday to Scotland to confront growing support for another independence referendum. Ahead of his visit, Johnson said that Scotland, as a part of the UK, gained access to a coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, and they are being administered by their shared armed forces, who are creating 80 new vaccine centers in Scotland.
We have pulled together to defeat the virus, Mr Johnson said. Mutual cooperation across the UK throughout this pandemic is exactly what the people of Scotland expect and it is what I have been focused on.
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Wednesday criticized PM Johnson's planned trip to Scotland, questioning whether his reasons for visiting are really essential and arguing that it sets a bad example to the public.
Ms Sturgeon, who runs Scotland's semi-autonomous government, is hoping a strong performance by her Scottish National Party in an election for the country's devolved parliament in May would give her the mandate to hold a second referendum.
If Scotland voted for independence, it would mean the UK would lose about a third of its landmass and almost a tenth of its population - just as the world's sixth-biggest economy is grappling with the impact of Brexit.
Mr Johnson, who would have to agree to a new referendum, has said there is no need for a new vote after independence was rejected by Scottish voters in 2014.Scotland voted against independence by 55% to 45% in a 2014 referendum. But a majority of Scots also backed staying in the European Union in the subsequent 2016 Brexit vote, stoking demands by Scottish nationalists for a new independence vote after the UK as a whole voted to leave.