Boris Johnson has told the Scottish Conservative conference that he does “not want to end or undermine devolution”.
The Prime Minister was roundly criticised this week when he called devolution a “disaster” in leaked comments to Tory MPs.
He was subsequently contradicted by Conservative leaders in both Wales and Scotland who emphasised that they did not seek to do away with devolution.
Today Boris Johnson sought to clarify that he was attacking the SNP, not devolution itself, and said that cooperation with the devolved governments over the pandemic should continue.
“Now I know my comments on devolution have been widely reported this past week, but since no press were in the room, I’ll tell it to you straight: the way the SNP have handled devolution in Scotland has been a disaster —from plummeting education standards, low business confidence and the lowest satisfaction in public services ever — their record is abysmal,” he said.
“The key is to have policies to show how devolution can work for Scotland, rather than the SNP obsession with making devolution work against the rest of the UK.
“However, just because I criticise devolved performance, does not mean I want to end or undermine devolution.
“As a former Mayor of London, I know how effective devolved powers can be, for example in making transport greener and in tackling crime; devolution should not be used by politicians as a wall to break an area of the UK away from the rest, it should be used as a step, to pass power down to local communities and businesses to make their lives better.”
He went on to say that it was this localism in “which I believe and want to further”.
“However, at this time there simply no room for division or distraction over the constitution,” he said.
“In order for us to tackle the shared and common threat that is Covid-19, the focus separation must end – and for it to end, so must the division. So I would like to thank the Scottish Government for the way it has worked with the UK Government to try and tackle this virus over these past months and appeal to them to continue working with us, making use of the vaccine stocks, tests kits and new technology that come from being part of what is still one of the world’s leading scientific superpowers.
“Covid-19 doesn’t care about constitutions and whatever our political differences, we all need to work together at this time to protect the health and jobs of people in Scotland.”