Growing spat between SNP and Boris Johnson could cost lives – leader comment

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: JPIMedia
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: JPIMedia
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Scotland’s drug-death crisis and climate change are two issues on which the Scottish and UK governments should co-operate

The MP for East Renfrewshire, the SNP’s Kirsten Oswald, rose to her feet in the Commons to ask Boris Johnson about an increase in the daily allowance for members of the House of Lords to £323, pointing out that this was more than the allowance for a single person over the age of 25 on Universal Credit for an entire month.

The Prime Minister replied that he found it “odd”, saying it was a matter for the Lords, but also, in a remark that sparked outrage, “I hate agreeing with these people.”

It may have been a flippant, off-the-cuff aside, but there are other regrettable signs that, even when the UK and Scottish governments share the same overal aims about some of the most serious issues of the day, they are incapable of co-operating in a sensible, practical way.

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Politicians in both Holyrood and Westminster have an urgent duty to find ways to tackle the utterly appalling number of drug-related deaths in Scotland. And yet, the Scottish Government has announced a drugs conference in Glasgow next month, the day before the UK Government is to hold a drugs summit in the city. Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick complained the UK event had been organised “without any consultation” with the Scottish Government or Glasgow City Council.

And news that UK officials approached the ExCel Centre in London as a possible alternative location for the UN climate summit planned for Glasgow in November adds weight to sacked summit president Claire O’Neill’s claim that Johnson had threatened to move the event out of Scotland. She also said Johnson had called Sturgeon “that bloody wee Jimmy Krankie woman”, which Downing Street denies. As most people in Scotland know well, constitutional politics can cause passions to run high. But politicians need to be grown up enough to put such differences aside when dealing with other important matters.

It is hard to think of more important matters than saving the lives of citizens they are supposed to represent and preventing dangerous climate change. What will the rest of the world make of us, if they arrive in November to find Johnson and Sturgeon at daggers drawn, hurling abuse at one another? Could it actually materially damage the negotiations? For the good of us all, both sides need to find what common ground they can.