Boris to turn screw on Blackford in heated Commons row as anti-SNP petition surges to 100k

Indyref2: Andrew Bowie issues warning over impact of independence

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Boris Johnson said devolution has “absolutely not” been a disaster for the United Kingdom amid increasing tensions between Edinburgh and London on the Union and Scottish independence. During a visit to Wales today, the Prime Minister said he had benefited from devolution himself by equating his experience as mayor of London to that of the administrations governing Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

He was asked if he considered devolution a “disaster”, following comments he was reported to have made to Conservative MPs in relation to Scotland.

Mr Johnson said: “Certainly not overall. Absolutely not. I speak as the proud beneficiary of devolution when I was running London.

“I was very proud to be doing things that made a real difference for my constituents and my electorate, improving quality of life.”

He added: “I think that devolution can work very well, but it depends very much on what the devolved authorities do.”

Mr Johnson sparked a row in November last year when he told the Northern Research Group of backbenchers that devolution had been “a disaster north of the border” and “Tony Blair’s biggest mistake”.

At the same time, a House of Commons debate on the prospect of a second independence referendum could soon take place as an independence petition reaches almost 100,000 signatures.

A Parliamentary petition titled “Do not give consent for another Scottish Independence Referendum” was started on January 26th and has amassed 97,294 in almost three weeks.

The House of Commons said at 100,000 signatures, the petition would be “considered for debate in Parliament”.

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When the debate goes ahead, sparks are expected to fly between Tory and SNP MPs in the Chamber.

So far, 21 polls since January 2020 have revealed support for Scottish independence sits at an average of 55 percent.

Keith Brown MSP, SNP deputy leader, said the polls reflect that Scotland has a “democratic right to choose its own future”.

He told Express.co.uk that it was “a decision that lies solely with the people of Scotland – not Tory governments that we don’t vote for.”

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He added: “The overwhelming majority of people in Scotland want us to take more decisions for ourselves, not fewer – and the Tories know they cannot defy a democratic mandate, which is why they are now gearing up for an independence referendum that everyone knows is coming.”

But Scottish Secretary Alister Jack argues if the SNP won another four years in power in the May Holyrood elections then they would have to respect the Union and work within the competences of Scottish devolution.

Mr Jack said: “They [The SNP] have to stick to the competencies that are devolved to them.

“Scotland works best and devolution works best when the devolved assembly governments work with the UK government.

“And that’s the problem we have at the moment [with the SNP].”

Mr Jack stressed the UK Government had been “crystal clear” that a second referendum was “not on the agenda for us at the moment.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, added: “Co-operation should be at the heart of devolution, not division.

“Both governments must put their differences aside and work harder to bring everyone together.”

A Scottish Conservative party spokesman said: “Devolution works best when our two governments co-operate for the benefit of Scotland.

“All of our focus should be on Scotland’s economic recovery after the virus.

“The SNP’s plan for an illegal independence referendum this year is just a dangerous distraction.”

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