Boris Johnson began a visit to Scotland today with a photoshoot just 30 miles from Nicola Sturgeon’s official residence – after declining his offer of talks.
The Prime Minister appeared this afternoon at a police college in Fife to deny that his refusal to meet the Prime Minister at Bute House in Edinburgh was a snub.
Last night, he rejected his request for one-on-one talks to discuss efforts to rebuild the nation from the effects of the pandemic.
But this afternoon, after traveling to Glasgow on his Union Jack plane, he posed for photos at Tulliallan Police College.
The facility is located between Falkirk and Dunfermline on the other side of the Forth from the Scottish capital. It is only 30 miles from Bute House by road.
Ms Sturgeon said this afternoon that his refusal to meet with her was “strange” and said it was up to him to explain her refusal.
Mr Johnson has denied snubbing him, at the request of reporters from the college, where he posed with police dogs in an area away from public access.
‘No, I didn’t. I’m always thrilled, always, always, always, thrilled – and look, we, seriously, we’re working together, ”he said.
Mr Johnson is in Scotland, but details of where he was going remained unknown until the last minute. He eventually appeared at Tulliallan Police College, between Falkirk and Dunfermline. It is only 30 miles from Bute House.
The PM had previously flown from London to Glasgow in his Union Jack plane.
Ms Sturgeon took a walk between the sticks at a children’s nursery in Fallin, near Stirling today. But there will be no rematch for England v Scotland at Euro 2020 in June after the PM turned down his request for a face-to-face meeting at Bute House in Edinburgh.
Instead, the prime minister suggested they meet with other prime ministers also involved at a later date.
The Prime Minister’s previous visits to Scotland have been to well-secured locations to avoid the protests which have hosted some of his trips as Prime Minister.
Boris Johnson ‘missing in action’ in fight against climate change, says Starmer
He accused the Prime Minister of a lack of leadership ahead of a major United Nations environmental conference the UK is hosting in November.
COP26 takes place at Glasgow in less than 100 days and the opposition leader accused the government of lacking ambition ahead of the meeting of top world leaders.
Speaking today on a visit to Glasgow, Sir Keir said: “The UK needs to show leadership, leadership from the Prime Minister as he is missing.
“We need the ability to form coalitions, to bring the world together, and we need to show that we are meeting our obligations.”
He argued that skills in “international diplomacy and bringing people together in a coalition” were needed to achieve this, but added: “Those skills are lacking with this prime minister.
“He’s not known for his foreign diplomacy, he’s not known for forming coalitions, he’s actually known around the world for breaking the rules.”
In a separate interview with The Independent, the Labor leader said he would deliver on his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to reduce a “substantial majority” of greenhouse gases by the end of this decade.
‘The UK government, the Scottish government at all levels are working together on the things that matter to the people of our country, in particular rolling out vaccinations and generally making sure we bounce back and rebuild better after the pandemic, and we will continue.
“I thank the Scottish Government for what they have done, a very high vaccination rate here in Scotland and a truly fantastic achievement from the Scots who have come forward to be vaccinated – working with them to finish this – but also by ensuring that we have a very strong economic recovery, and I think the country is in a good position to do so.
Details of Mr Johnson’s trip have been kept under wraps until he comes out this afternoon. The Prime Minister’s previous visits to Scotland have been to well-secured locations to avoid the protests which have hosted some of his trips as Prime Minister.
Any discussion between Mr Johnson and Ms Sturgeon would likely be overshadowed by a row over a new referendum on Scottish independence wanted by the SNP but which the PM refuses to allow.
Ms Sturgeon today said it was a “missed opportunity”, telling broadcasters: “I don’t feel snubbed.”
“I think most people will think it’s a little strange, and a little strange, that we have a Prime Minister visiting Scotland who rightly talks a lot about the need – despite our political differences – to work together where we can get through Covid and recover from Covid, but don’t take the opportunity in Scotland to come and talk to me directly about how we might cooperate and work together.
“I think people will find that strange and it’s up to Boris Johnson to explain, I guess, why.
“This would be the first opportunity, given Covid, for us to sit down, socially appropriately distance ourselves, and have a face-to-face chat. I think it would have been a good opportunity.
“I was about to welcome him to Bute House today. There are a lot of things Boris Johnson and I fundamentally disagree on, but we both run governments trying to get our countries through Covid and so we have a lot of things to cooperate on.
“So, you know, a missed opportunity but it’s his. I am ready to work with anyone, in any way I can, to get Scotland through Covid and to recover.
The Prime Minister’s visit to Scotland is expected to see new questions about his resistance to a second independence referendum.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove used an interview with the Sunday Mail to say that the UK government would not oppose a plebiscite if it was the “established will” of the Scottish people.
But he stressed, “I just don’t think it’s fair, and the public doesn’t think it’s fair, to ask that question right now.”
Prime Minister Ms Sturgeon wrote to Mr Johnson earlier this week offering him the opportunity to discuss the coronavirus recovery at his Bute House residence.
But in his response last night, the PM instead suggested they meet with other prime ministers also involved at a later date.
It came after Scottish Police appointed a mission to keep Mr Johnson under the name Operation Bunter, but then removed the name for fear it would offend him.
In his letter, the Prime Minister said: “As I noted during our last meeting, I wish to organize a face-to-face meeting with you and the other Prime Ministers and Deputy Prime Minister to take advantage of the constructive discussions that we had earlier this summer.
“We then agreed that we should establish a structured forum for continued engagement between government and decentralized administrations to achieve tangible results for the benefit of people across the UK.
“There is a lot to discuss for us as all parts of the UK work together on our common priority to recover from the pandemic.
“I understand our managers have made good progress on the details of this since our last conversation.”
Mr Johnson added: “I especially want us to work closely on the vaccination booster campaign this fall, which will be crucial as we continue to fight the pandemic.
“The UK Government has purchased millions of vaccines for the whole of the UK and we look forward to working with the Scottish Government as we roll out booster shots as advised by JCVI.
“The UK government works closely with the decentralized Scottish government on a variety of different issues.
Ms Sturgeon (pictured) acknowledged in her own letter on Monday that she and Mr Johnson “are politically different”, but stressed that the Scottish and UK governments must “work together where we can”.
“I know you meet regularly with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, but I look forward to meeting you soon and working together for the benefit of people from all parts of our country.”
Ms Sturgeon acknowledged in her own letter on Monday that she and Mr Johnson “are politically different”, but stressed that the Scottish and UK governments must “work together where we can”.
It comes after she confirmed that most of the remaining restrictions on coronaviruses in Scotland are to be removed from Monday – what she hailed as ‘possibly the most important date to date’ in the pandemic .
From August 9, Scotland will move ‘beyond level 0’ with the removal of most restrictions such as physical distancing and the size of social gatherings.
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