Boris Johnson is determined to be the “voice” of the anti-independence majority in Scotland, Downing Street said, after a minister called those calling for a second referendum “downright insane”.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said Mr Johnson had always fully supported Scottish decentralization – although he would have described it as a ‘disaster’ on a conference call with Tory MPs – and would be on the side of those who voted “decisively” in 2014 to keep the Union intact.
The comments come after Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, who suggested that the Conservative Party leader’s comments on devolution had been taken out of context, had choice words for those calling for another referendum on independence despite the No result six years ago.
Mr Jenrick told BBC Breakfast: ‘I think any politician who wanted to hold a referendum on a subject like this right now … is downright crazy.
“We are in the midst of a very serious health situation, a pandemic, and we are also seeing massive disruption in people’s lives and livelihoods due to the ensuing economic disruption.
Mr Johnson was faced with backlash from Nationalists and the Labor Party after The Sun reported on Monday telling the Northern Research Group, a group of Conservative MPs representing parts of northern England, that decentralization had been ” a disaster north of the border ”and called it“ Tony Blair’s Biggest Mistake ”.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon took to the comments, which come just months ahead of next year’s Scottish Parliament elections, suggesting that independence was the best response for decentralized administration.
Responding to the remarks, which also included Mr Johnson saying he couldn’t ‘see a case’ for the transfer of more power, the Scottish Prime Minister tweeted: ‘It is worth bookmarking these comments for the next time the Tories say they are not a threat to the powers of the Scottish Parliament – or, more unbelievably, support the delegation of more powers.
“The only way to protect and strengthen the Scottish Parliament is independence.”
But Number 10 said Mr Johnson would defend the majority verdict in the latest independence referendum ‘once in a generation’, where 55% of those who voted decided to keep Scotland United Kingdom.
“The PM has always fully supported decentralization. This government continues to place the Union at the heart of everything we do ”, declared the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson.
“The Prime Minister has made it clear that he believes all four corners of the UK are stronger together and that he will be the voice of the majority of Scots who voted decisively to keep the UK united .
“He will always oppose those who try to separate the UK.
“The Prime Minister believes that we had what was a single referendum and that the result should be respected. He strongly rejects the SNP’s call to dismantle the UK.
Douglas Ross, who heads the Tories in Scotland, told BBC Scotland he was due to meet with the Prime Minister after his comments – which were not denied by Downing Street – were made public.
He told the broadcaster: “The Prime Minister has been elected mayor of London twice, so he believes in decentralization.
“Decentralization is not the problem. The problem has been the SNP’s obsession during its thirteen and a half years in power to separate Scotland from the rest of the UK.
Shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray has criticized Mr Johnson for defending decentralization as “one of Labor’s proudest achievements”.
“This confirms that Boris Johnson does not believe in decentralization and would jeopardize the future of the UK,” said the Labor MP.
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