Rishi Sunak refuses to apologise to Scottish families for holding general election during the school holidays

Rishi Sunak has defended the decision to stage the general election on July 4

Rishi Sunak has refused to apologise for holding the general election during the Scottish school holidays. 

During a visit to the Highlands the Prime Minister said the SNP should focus on school attainment rather than on the election being held on July 4.

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It comes after First Minister John Swinney criticised the date as “disrespectful” to Scottish families who have holidays booked.

The majority of Scottish council areas will have started the school summer holidays by this point.

When asked by journalists if he would apologise, Mr Sunak said: “No - this is the right moment to have this election, because we’ve restored economic stability after a difficult few years.

“Inflation is back to normal, wages have been rising faster than prices for 10 months, the economy has grown at a health rate, and energy bills are falling.”

He added: “If John Swinney and the SNP want to talk about Scottish schools, they should be focused on the fact they’ve let down Scottish school children for years and years.

“Scottish schools used to be the envy of not just the United Kingdom, but the envy of the world.

“Under the SNP leadership, Scottish schools have plummeted down international league tables, letting down a generation of school children.

“That’s what we should be focused on, but the SNP aren’t because they are focused on independence and it just shows they’ve got absolutely the wrong priorities.”

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Before Mr Sunak had even appeared at the Port of Nigg, the SNP released a statement saying the Prime Minister’s visit to the Highlands should mark the beginning of an “apology tour of Scotland”.

Stephen Flynn MP, the party’s Westminster leader, said the “fleeting” visit should be a reminder of the need to vote the Conservatives out.

He said: “This Tory government has been an unmitigated disaster for Scotland - imposing Brexit, austerity cuts and a cost-of-living crisis, and denying Scotland’s democratic right to choose our own future with independence.

“The Highlands has suffered at the hands of Westminster despite the bright future the region could have at the heart of our energy transition - the SNP will always demand investment in Highlands jobs and we saw that recently with a Japanese firm set to invest £350 million in the region thanks to backing from the SNP Scottish Government.”

Mr Sunak’s visit to the Port of Nigg on the Cromarty Firth on Thursday evening marked the first day of six weeks of campaigning between now and polling day.

It came only hours after Mr Swinney officially launched the SNP’s election campaign in Edinburgh.

Anas Sarwar also launched Scottish Labour’s campaigning in the capital earlier in the day as well, and the Scottish Lib Dems and Scottish Greens are due to launch their campaigns on Friday. 

During his visit to Scotland, the Prime Minister also denied claims he was not up to fighting the election north of the border.

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He said: “I’ve been here multiple times in the last few months alone.

“We [Douglas Ross and I] were just remarking that I’ve been back and forth quite a lot over the last weeks.

“I’ve been out and about across the UK today - I started in the East Midlands and then I was in Wales, and now I am in Scotland and I will be doing that every day for the next six weeks.”

He also said he has defended the union well during his tenure as Prime Minister, adding he has “always worked collaboratively and constructively” with the SNP, and claimed he has been “Prime Minister for every part of the United Kingdom”.

He pointed to levelling-up funding in Moray and Dumfries, two key target areas for the Scottish Conservatives at this election.

He also talked up the Conservatives’ support for the oil and gas industry in the north-east, another key battleground for the party.

Mr Sunak added: “I’m focused on delivering for the country.

“We live in an uncertain time and that’s why the choice for the country, the question for the country, should be who can build on the economic stability that we’ve brought to ensure a secure future for everyone.

“That requires bold action, it requires a clear plan, and that’s what I bring to the table.”

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Less than an hour after speaking to Scottish journalists, a new poll predicted the Conservatives were now 27 points behind Labour.

The Polling People for GB News poll put Labour on 47 per cent across the UK, and the Conservatives on just 20 per cent.

Professor Matt Goodwin told GB News this would lead to “a total Tory wipeout”.

This poll also puts the Reform Party on 12 per cent - during his visit to the Highlands Mr Sunak ruled out doing a deal with the party, which is expected to take right-wing votes off the Conservatives at the ballot box.



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