Boris Johnson labelled a 'walking advert for Scottish independence' by SNP ahead of visit

The SNP have labelled the Prime Minister a “walking advert for independence” ahead of his expected visit to Scotland today.

Boris Johnson is set to spend parliamentary recess on a ‘levelling up’ tour of the UK, starting in Scotland, but not meeting with Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross.

The visit comes as the Met Police wait for the Prime Minister to return a formal questionnaire about his involvement in the alleged parties in Downing Street.

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Mr Johnson’s response to the gatherings forced Mr Ross to call for his colleague’s resignation, with the prospect of the Scottish Tory leader welcoming Mr Johnson back to Scotland with “open arms” labelled as potentially a “humiliating climbdown” for the Moray MP.

The Prime Minister is also set to speak to the Scottish Conservative conference next month, potentially by video-link, in a bid to heal the divide between London and the Scottish party.

He will today also visit a manufacturing site in Scotland, as well as visiting part of a leading research and development sector in Edinburgh, Number 10 said.

In a statement, Mr Johnson said: “I’m getting out of London this week and taking a simple message with me. This Government is getting on with the job of uniting and levelling up the country.”

However, his visit is being used by the SNP as an opportunity to bang the constitutional drum, with the party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford claiming Mr Johnson is a “walking advert for Scottish independence”.

Despite the ‘partygate’ scandal, support for independence has stayed broadly static, with voters split 50/50 in favour and against independence.

Mr Blackford said: “Boris Johnson is a walking advert for Scottish independence, demonstrating beyond doubt the need for Scotland to become an independent country, so we can escape the damage of Westminster control and build a fairer future.

"Every time the Prime Minister visits Scotland, support for independence shoots through the roof as people are reminded of the litany of scandals and damaging decisions imposed on Scotland by this disastrous Tory Government.

"With the police closing in on his rule-breaking, Mr Johnson should use his farewell tour to apologise for the damage he has inflicted on Scotland and hand in his resignation."

Mr Blackford said Mr Johnson was “hiding from the Scottish people” during his visit, repeating his call for Tory MPs to “show him the door”.

The SNP criticism of the Prime Minister was echoed on Sunday by Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, who said the visit demonstrated Mr Ross’s “total irrelevance”.

He said: “Boris Johnson is not fit to be Prime Minister and he is single the biggest threat to the future of the UK.

“If the Scottish Tories welcome him back with open arms, it will confirm once and for all that they are a party devoid of any principles.

“This is a humiliating climbdown from Douglas Ross, whose total irrelevance within his own party has been revealed.

“The Tories are not good enough to lead the UK and not strong enough to stand up to the SNP.”

A Scottish Conservative spokesman confirmed there were no plans for the Scottish Tory leader and the Prime Minister to meet, adding: “Douglas Ross has made his position very clear and that has not changed.

"Under Douglas Ross's leadership, the Scottish Conservatives secured an extra 100,000 votes at last year's election. We remain focused on holding the SNP to account and on Scotland's recovery from Covid.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the Prime Minister should be seeing the Queen to offer his resignation rather than travelling to Scotland.

He said: “The Prime Minister should be making the shorter trip to the Palace to offer the Queen his resignation. The failure of Scottish Conservative MPs to hand in letters to the 1922 Committee shows contempt for their constituents.

“Every minute Boris Johnson remains Prime Minister is an insult to all those who lost a loved one, adhered to the rules, educated their children at home, went to work in care homes or applauded from the doorstep.”

Want to hear more from The Scotsman's politics team? Check out the latest episode of our political podcast, The Steamie.

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