Johnson’s Scottish Leader Blames Brexit for Independence Support
(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s party leader in Scotland attacked the U.K. government’s handling of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic, blaming it for fueling an increase in support for independence.
In a speech on Monday, Scottish Conservative Party chief Douglas Ross said the “winner takes it all” approach to leaving the European Union has alienated Scots, who voted to remain in the bloc. Opinion polls show support for Scotland breaking away from the rest of the U.K. is now as high as 58%.
“There is no getting away from the fact that Brexit and how it has been delivered has undermined the perception that there are common shared values that unite us,” Ross said. “Leaving one union has changed how some people view our own union.”
The criticism comes as the governing Conservatives become increasingly concerned about how to reverse rising support for independence in Scotland with polls also showing the Scottish National Party is on course for another emphatic victory in elections in May.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP’s leader, has said a decisive win will reinforce her mandate to push for another referendum and her semi-autonomous government is preparing legislation. Johnson has so far refused to allow a vote after Scots chose to stay in the U.K. by 55% to 45% in 2014.
Sturgeon has lambasted Johnson for undermining Scotland’s powers over such things as the environment and food standards with its controversial post-Brexit Internal Markets Bill. She also has diverged on tackling Covid-19, winning support in Scotland while Johnson’s popularity declined.
Ross said last month that the “case for separation is now being made more effectively in London than it ever could in Edinburgh.” He is now calling for a total overhaul of the relationship between the U.K. government in London and the devolved administration in Edinburgh. The U.K. must become more inclusive and flexible on areas such as immigration and trade talks, he said.
In May, Ross quit as a junior minister for Scotland in Johnson’s government after the premier’s top aide, Dominic Cummings, appeared to break lockdown rules by driving across the country to his parents’ property in northeast England to get childcare support.
“It is not the benefits of separation that is driving support for independence,” Ross said on Monday. “But instead a perception that Scotland and England no longer share common values.”
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