PM must work with devolved administrations on easing lockdown – Ian Blackford

Boris Johnson has been urged to work with the devolved administrations in the UK over a possible easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford made the plea as the PM prepares to make a statement on the issue on Sunday – having already hinted some changes could be made as early as the following day.

But Mr Blackford said neither he nor Scotland’s First Minister know what the Prime Minister is going to announce.

Nicola Sturgeon has already warned Scots it is highly unlikely there can be any easing off of restrictions north of the border yet, with a suggestion the R number – the number of people infected by each person with Covid-19 – could be slightly higher in Scotland that it is in the UK.

HEALTH Coronavirus Scotland
HEALTH Coronavirus Scotland

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has also warned of possible consequences if the UK fails to adopt a united approach to lifting lockdown.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Thursday, Mr Blackford said: “First and foremost what the Prime Minister needs to do is to work with all the devolved administrations, here in Scotland and in Wales and Northern Ireland as well.

“It should be a consensus we can build with the four nations working together. And that should be based on the medical and scientific advice.”

Ahead of the PM’s statement on Sunday, Mr Blackford said “none of us, whether it is the First Minister and the first ministers in other jurisdictions, or opposition party leaders, know what he is going to say”.

The SNP MP stressed the need for politicians across the nations and across parties to work together, saying: “This is an absolute crisis we are in, and it’s about life and death.

“This shouldn’t be about politics, this should be about the scientific and medical advice, and the responsibility that political leaders have to protect the population.

“At the end of the day we are still facing an enormous death toll from this virus and everything we do should be based on the scientific and the medical advice that we have.”

Sir Keir told the same programme: “Across the United Kingdom we went into lockdown together and I think it would be far better if any easing or relaxation was done together.

“I think there are real problems if different nations, different regions, do it at different times. That may be inevitable, that may be necessary in places, but the principle should be one.

“One of the things I’m going to be saying to the Prime Minister today is that we need to keep a UK-wide approach to this because otherwise there could be all sorts of unintended consequences with people travelling around the country from one area to another and the last thing we want is for this infection to get out of control.”

HEALTH Coronavirus Scotland Deaths
HEALTH Coronavirus Scotland Deaths

Mr Blackford added: “If we do allow an earlier removal of the restrictions, all we are going to do is run the risk that we have that second spike, and actually the impact not just on the health of individuals but the economy will be greater.”

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs on Wednesday that if restrictions are eased in a uniform manner across the UK, this must go at a pace which ensures the lockdown is not ended too early in places where coronavirus still has a hold.

She stressed easing lockdown “must go at the pace of the part of the UK that is furthest behind in the infection curve, because not to do that would lead to parts of the UK potentially lifting restrictions before it was safe to do so, and that is the worry I would have and what I am not prepared to countenance here”.