Scotland faces ‘biggest threat to devolution’ under Tories, says SNP

Scotland is facing its “biggest threat to devolution” following reports the Prime Minister called devolution a “disaster”, the SNP has said.

In a call with Conservative MPs on Monday, Boris Johnson reportedly said devolution was “a disaster north of the border” and “Tony Blair’s biggest mistake”.

During PMQs, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the Prime Minister’s alleged comments this week about devolution were “not just flippant remarks”.

Mr Johnson told the Commons that the UK has “shown its value and will continue to show its value” during the pandemic and beyond.

Mr Blackford said: “His attack on devolution wasn’t just a slip of the tongue, it was a slip of the Tory mask.

“The chasm between Westminster and the Scottish people has never been bigger. We know that these were not just flippant remarks when Scotland faces the biggest threat to devolution with the Tory power grab Bill.

“The fact is Scotland has been completely ignored by Westminster. We now face an extreme Brexit, a power grab and another round of Tory cuts all being imposed against our will by a Tory government that we didn’t vote for.

“Isn’t it the case that the real disaster facing the people of Scotland is another 20 years of Westminster government? Isn’t it clearer than ever that the only way … to protect Scotland’s interests, our Parliament and our place in Europe is for Scotland to become an independent country?”

Prime Minister’s Questions
Prime Minister’s Questions

Responding to Mr Blackford, the Prime Minister said: “I could not disagree with the honourable gentleman more.

“He is totally wrong. What the UK does as a whole is far, far bigger, better and more important than what we can do as individual nations and regions.

“I think, actually, when you look at the way the UK has pulled together during this pandemic, the way the armed services have worked to get testing throughout the whole of the UK, the way that the furlough scheme has been deployed across the UK.

“The billions and billions that have been found to help people across the whole of the UK, businesses in Scotland, in Wales, in Northern Ireland, in England, I think that the UK has shown its value and will continue to show its value.”

Earlier, Mr Blackford said: “Over the past 20 years Westminster has imposed an extreme Brexit, an illegal war in Iraq, £9,000 tuition fees, the Windrush scandal, the rape clause, the bedroom tax and a decade of Tory austerity cuts which have pushed millions into poverty.

“At the same time, the Scottish Parliament has delivered free prescriptions, free tuition fees, free personal care, free bus travel, the baby box, the Scottish child payment, world-leading climate action.

“All of which have made Scotland a fairer and more equal place to live. Does the Prime Minister understand why the people of Scotland think it is him and his Parliament that is the real disaster?”

Mr Johnson replied: “I do think that his policies of wanting to break up the union are a disaster and I wish he and his party would focus on the real priorities of the people of Scotland.

“On education, on health, on tackling crime and housing and the issues that matter to all our people. That’s what a devolved Government should do.

“I was very proud to run a devolved administration. That’s what we focused on. We didn’t endlessly go on about constitutional change and the break-up of the UK.”

Prime Minister’s Questions
Prime Minister’s Questions

Earlier, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle told the Prime Minister to stop referring to the SNP as the Scottish nationalist party.

Sir Lindsay said: “Can I just say it’s the Scottish National Party, not the nationalist party.”

Mr Johnson replied: “Mr Speaker, I’m so sorry. They’re national but not nationalist. I see, right.”

Sir Lindsay replied: “We can play pedantics another time.”