Johnson Backs Scottish Devolution, Says SNP Has Been ‘Disaster’

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson reiterated his stance on devolution in Scotland, saying it can be effective in boosting jobs, improving transport and tackling crime, but that it shouldn’t be used as a political tool to try to break off an area of the U.K.

Johnson said the way the Scottish National Party has handled devolution has been a disaster resulting in “plummeting education standards, low business confidence and the lowest satisfaction in public services ever.” He was speaking during a virtual conference of the Scottish Conservative Party on Saturday.

“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 U.K.,” Johnson said. “It should be used as a step, to pass power down to local communities and businesses to make their lives better.”

Earlier this week, the prime minister came under fire from Scottish independence campaigners and his own party for criticizing the transfer of powers from London to Edinburgh. The dispute comes as Scotland prepares for crucial elections to its parliament next year that the governing SNP is expected to win.

A YouGov poll of Scottish voters published on Nov. 12 showed support for independence at 51%, while approval for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is running at 67%, compared to 20% for Johnson. Sturgeon has pledged to hold a second referendum on independence.

The prime minister, seeking a “partnership of shared stability and prosperity,” also said the political focus must stay on tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, instead of on separation.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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