Boris Johnson tells Scotland to focus on Covid not independence

Remark one of several broadsides UK Prime Minister aims at SNP

In this grab taken from video, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives a statement on the defence review via video link from 10 Downing Street, in London, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. Johnson has backed what is being touted as the biggest investment program in the U.K.'s armed forces since the end of the Cold War three decades ago. Johnson told lawmakers Thursday that the four-year financial package for the Ministry of Defense will “end the era of retreat” and pivot ting it towards potential future threats. Johnson said the armed forces will receive an additional 16.5 billion pounds ($21 billion) over and above the government’s earlier plans. (House of Commons/PA via AP)
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson criticised the devolved Scottish government for its focus on independence from the UK rather than more pressing issues such as Covid-19.

He said the Scottish National Party's tenure had led to falling education standards, low business confidence and poor satisfaction in public services.

Mr Johnson was addressing a virtual conference of the Scottish Conservative Party on Saturday at a time when polls suggest the clamour for independence in Scotland is at an all-time high.

“The key is to have policies to show how devolution can work for Scotland, rather than the SNP obsession with making devolution work against the rest of the UK,” Mr Johnson said.

“It should be used as a step, to pass power down to local communities and businesses to make their lives better.”

He urged for a "partnership of shared stability and prosperity" and, with England halfway through its second lockdown of the year, he said the focus must stay on fighting Covid-19 rather than separation.

A YouGov poll of Scottish voters published on November 12 showed support for independence at 51 per cent.

Approval for Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is running at 67 per cent, compared to 20 per cent for Mr Johnson.

Ms Sturgeon has pledged to hold a second referendum on independence.

In February, columnist Gavin Esler argued that Ms Sturgeon saw a referendum as being strategically beneficial. Amid anger at a prospective no-deal Brexit and the government's handling of Covid-19, the strategic benefits have only been enhanced in recent months.