Boris Johnson has been accused of using the coronavirus pandemic “as some kind of political weapon” after visiting Scotland for the first time since the general election.
Scottish media published mixed reactions to the PM’s visit, and Nicola Sturgeon accused the prime minster of “celebrating” the pandemic.
Scotland’s first minister said: “None of us should be crowing about this pandemic in a political sense.
“I just don’t think any of us should be championing and celebrating a pandemic that has taken thousands of lives as some... example of the pre-existing political case we want to make.”
Johnson was in Orkney and the north of Scotland one year on from the day he took office as prime minister.
He said the work of the military and the furlough schemes had proved the "merits of the union" and stressed that the Treasury had protected more than 900,000 jobs in the country.
The Herald headline read ‘“Johnson denies using crisis to claw back Union support” whereas The Scotsman ran with the more positive “COVID-19 shows we can bounce back stronger together”.
The Scottish Daily Mail claimed Johnson was “positively bouncing” and The Guardian used Sturgeon’s quote that the PM was using the pandemic as “a political weapon”.
Speaking to the media at a military base at Lossiemouth, on the north-east coast of Scotland, Johnson ignored the presence of a small group of protestors that greeted him.
He also denied avoiding Scottish voters, and said he met “loads of people” who “seemed in a very good mood”.
Opinion was split on the success of Johnson’s visit. In The Herald, a letter to the editor from Dave Bone in Girvan said: “The SNP has yet again been dismissive of the Prime Minister's visit to Scotland and the UK’s ongoing response to Covid. As always, the Union is receiving much predictable ire from it.
“However, the four nations of the UK have all funded a massive furlough scheme, billions went to charity, arts, culture and to support services. There is no way each individual nation could have done this alone.”
Jane Lax of Aberlour wrote: “Boris Johnson is right when he says the might of the Union helped us to provide the governmental response to Covid-19. As predictable as the sun rising in the east, Nicola Sturgeon refuses to accept this, arguing that it is merely due to where the power lies.”
However, David Stubley from Prestwick said: “Boris Johnson visits Scotland and keeps his itinerary as secret as possible yet his Unionist lackeys insist we must welcome him with open arms. This is a Prime Minister whose approval ratings are seriously negative and who has spent years denigrating Scotland and the Scots yet we still have pathetic toadying from some correspondents.
“If we continue to be fooled by these charlatan parties and their willing acolytes then we deserve nothing better than a proven liar and a used car salesman.”
Writing in The Guardian, John Crace said Johnson’s trip was little more than a press stunt arranged to quell anti-Union feeling.
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Crace wrote: “The prime minister didn’t enjoy his trip north of the border, but Nicola Sturgeon did. Boris visited Scotland to save the union. Mission accomplished — for the SNP.”
Recent opinion polls have showed a resurgence of support for Scottish independence.
In 2014 an independence referendum vote saw Scots vote 55-45 per cent to remain in the UK. But recent polls suggest that a majority of Scottish voters now support leaving the UK. A Panelbase poll for the Sunday Times found Scottish support for leaving the UK now stands at 54 per cent.
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