Scottish party leaders criticise Boris Johnson after he calls devolution a 'disaster'

Boris Johnson has come under attack for calling devolution "a disaster north of the border" in comments seized upon by Scottish nationalists.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon criticised the Prime Minister after he told Conservative MPs on Monday that devolution had been "Tony Blair's biggest mistake".

Douglas Ross, who leads the Conservatives in Scotland, insisted that "devolution has not been a disaster" in response to Mr Johnson's remarks on Monday.

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Downing Street sources did not deny Mr Johnson made the comments, which were first reported by the Sun.

Boris Johnson called devolution a 'disaster'Boris Johnson called devolution a 'disaster'
Boris Johnson called devolution a 'disaster'
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But they insisted "the PM has always supported devolution", but "not when it's used by separatists and nationalists to break up the UK", with the context of his remarks unclear.

Mr Johnson called the MPs from Downing Street, where he is self-isolating.

In response to the comments, which also included Mr Johnson saying he could not "see a case" for handing down more powers, Scotland's First Minister suggested independence was the best answer for the devolved administration.

Ms Sturgeon tweeted: "Worth bookmarking these PM comments for the next time Tories say they're not a threat to the powers of the Scottish Parliament - or, even more incredibly, that they support devolving more powers.

"The only way to protect & strengthen @ScotParl is with independence."

Mr Ross countered the Prime Minister's comments, which come just a few months before the Scottish Parliament elections next year.

The Moray MP said: "Devolution has not been a disaster.

"The SNP's non-stop obsession with another referendum - above jobs, schools and everything else - has been a disaster."

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Only last month the UK's three devolved administrations raised concerns over the Westminster Government's UK Internal Market Bill, with the Scottish Government describing the legislation as a "power grab".

The Prime Minister called the MPs who represent constituencies in northern England as he tries to unite the party after facing sustained criticism throughout the pandemic, and bitter in-fighting inside Downing Street culminated in the departure of his chief aide, Dominic Cummings.

Asked about the comments on devolution, No 10 sources did not deny he made them but attempted to clarify his position.

"The PM has always supported devolution but Tony Blair failed to foresee the rise of separatists in Scotland," one source said.

"And leaving the EU means we must strengthen and protect the UK economy with the UK Internal Market Bill.

"Devolution is great - but not when it's used by separatists and nationalists to break up the UK."

Shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray criticised Mr Johnson's remarks as he defended devolution as "one of Labour's proudest achievements".

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: "The Tory mask has well and truly slipped after Boris Johnson was caught red-handed claiming that Scottish devolution is a mistake.

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"The Tory Government is undertaking a full-scale assault on Scotland's devolution settlement with its power-grab bill. The Prime Minister's disdain only serves to underline the growing threat we face.

"Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross might be furiously spinning tonight - but people in Scotland haven't forgotten that he has repeatedly voted against new powers for the Scottish Parliament, rubber-stamped imposing an extreme Brexit against Scotland's will, and voted for the UK Internal Market Bill.

"The fact is Westminster cannot be trusted to respect Scotland's wishes."

Reporting by PA

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