LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the response to the coronavirus pandemic has shown the “sheer might” of the UK union. He said troops had done “vital work” to support the NHS during the pandemic and praised Treasury job retention schemes.
But the SNP said the visit showed Mr Johnson was “in a panic” about rising support for Scottish independence. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she had no plans to meet Mr Johnson, but that she would continue work with his government on the “immediate priority” of tackling coronavirus.
Mr Johnson said he “pledged to be a prime minister for every corner of the United Kingdom”, adding that the response to the pandemic had shown his government’s commitment to the whole of the UK.
The UK government has coordinated much of the UK’s economic response to the virus, including the coronavirus job retention furlough scheme.
But devolved governments have had control over most public health measures and have been able to set country-specific timetables and messaging. Although the whole of the UK entered lockdown in the same week, each constituent part has eased restrictions in a different way and at a different rate.
Phase 3 of Scotland’s “route map” out of lockdown began last week, as pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and barbers were allowed to reopen.
They were allowed to reopen in England slightly earlier on 4 July, along with holiday accommodation – including hotels, B&Bs, cottages, campsites and caravan parks.
Mr Johnson said ahead of his visit: “The last six months have shown exactly why the historic and heartfelt bond that ties the four nations of our country together is so important and the sheer might of our union has been proven once again.
“In Scotland, the UK’s magnificent armed forces have been on the ground doing vital work to support the NHS, from setting up and running mobile testing sites to airlifting critically-ill patients to hospitals from some of Scotland’s most remote communities.