Nicola Sturgeon: Boris Johnson should not 'celebrate pandemic' to boost union

Nicola Sturgeon has criticised Boris Johnson for “championing and celebrating” the coronavirus pandemic as a way to prove the case for the union.
Nicola Sturgeon has said the Prime Minsiter should not use the pandemic to campaign for the union.Nicola Sturgeon has said the Prime Minsiter should not use the pandemic to campaign for the union.
Nicola Sturgeon has said the Prime Minsiter should not use the pandemic to campaign for the union.

The First Minister said that if she were “in his shoes” she would not be on the campaign trail, as she was quizzed about Mr Johnson’s visit to Scotland today to mark his first year anniversary as Prime Minister.

Before arriving in Orkney, the Prime Minister said the “sheer heft” of the UK economy kept businesses afloat during the coronavirus lockdown, adding that 900,000 workers had been supported by the UK government’s job protection scheme and claimed £4.6 billion had been given to the Scottish Government during the crisis.

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Asked about his comments at the Scottish Governemnt's daily coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon said they were purely "a feature of where power lies”.

She added: “If Scotland was an independent country like Ireland, or many other small countries, we would be doing these things ourselves. So in that sense it's a redundnat argument. But on a more fundamental level I 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.

“This has been a heartbreaking crisis we're not out of yet. Too many people have died and all of us have a really solemn response to focus and get our countries through it, and that's what I’m going to continue to do. Campaigning right now is not my priority. Boris Johnson has every right to do a campaign visit to Scotland, in his shoes it's not how I would be spending my time given what we're facing right now.

"People can make up their own minds about these things and where they think the decisions are best taken. None of us should be crowing about this pandemic in a political sense.”

She said that the financial support was weclome but that it came to Scotland from the UK government because it “holds the borrowing powers that Scotland doesn't hold, and Scottish taxpayers will pay the cost of that borrowing in the same way as taxpayers axross the rest of the UK will. It's not some kind of favour being done for Scotland.”

Ms Sturgeon revealed there had been no COBRA meeting since early May, but she had spoken with Mr Johnson when he “very graciously called to offer his sympathies” after the knife attack in Glasgow last month.

"I can't call one (COBRA meeting) and there hasn't been one since early May and I think it might be better if we had that forum for discussion more often but that' s not my decision,” she said. “My primary reponse is to take the best decisions I can for Scotland and do it in a straightforward way and not be influenced by politcs or the constitution.

“Do I think the UK government could learn from Scotland's approach? Yes I do. An approach driven by the objective of elimination is one thing they could learn and I would encourage the UK government to do that as it would help all the countries of the UK and put us in the strongest position going into winter and also minimise the risk of us going backwards again if the virus runs out of control again.

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"There's also a lot Scotland can learn from others and we have tried to learn already... from New Zealand, I’ve looked closely at that approach and tried to learn from that. None of us have all the answers and we risk letting down the people we serve if we pretend that we do.”

The First Minister said the “offer is always open” to Mr Johnson to discuss coronavirus and said she looked forward to the day she was “dragged off to other issues as it would mean this crisis is under control”.However despite tweeting herself about independence today, she said she would not "get into the guts of it” at a Covid briefing. “I’ll go into the arguments about independence when we're focusing on the arguments of independence. I’ve got a pandemic to deal with right now and that's what I’m going to do.”

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