Scotland unable to fight Covid-19 as effectively without England, Boris Johnson to claim on visit

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Scotland would have been unable to fight Covid-19 as effectively without England’s backing, Boris Johnson will claim on a visit north of the border.

The prime minister will walk into the lion’s den – three months before an expected SNP election landslide – with a plea to Scots to recognise the might of the UK lies behind the battle against the pandemic.

It is the UK that has bought up vaccines and supplied rapid test kits, while the British Army set up vaccine centres and 999 calls were diverted to English centres amid a staff shortage, he will say.

“We are delivering for the people of Scotland so we can ensure the strongest possible recovery from the virus,” Mr Johnson will tell Scots.

The visit comes after Nicola Sturgeon raised the stakes by planning to stage an advisory independence referendum – if the prime minister refuses to give his consent to the poll.

An 11-point roadmap for a second vote, published at the weekend, argued there would be “no moral or democratic justification” for denying a request, if the SNP triumphs at Holyrood in May.

Such a position would be “unsustainable both at home and abroad”, it said, after Mr Johnson suggested Scots wait more than 30 years for another independence bid.

Ms Sturgeon has accused him of being “frightened of democracy”, saying: “If the SNP win the Scottish election in a few months’ time, then what democrat could rightly stand in the way?”

On his visit, Mr Johnson will attempt to swerve that controversy by stressing the benefits of the Union, including:

* 80 vaccine centres “the British Armed Forces is helping to establish” – with more than 415,000 Scots having received jabs already.

* London procuring “vaccine supply on behalf of all parts of the UK” – with vaccination rates much higher than across the EU.

* One third of Scottish ambulance calls taken by centres in England last weekend – following “a high level of staff absence in the Scottish Ambulance Service”.

* More than 1 million rapid lateral flow test kits delivered – with funding for 24 drive and walk-through testing centres and 21 mobile testing units.

* No less than 62 per cent of testing kits in Scotland “provided” by the UK government.

Mr Johnson will say: “The great benefits of cooperation across the whole of the UK have never been clearer than since the beginning of this pandemic.

“We have pulled together to defeat the virus, providing £8.6bn to the Scottish government to support public services whilst also protecting the jobs of more than 930,000 citizens in Scotland.”

The prime minister is certain to face strong criticism of the impact of his Brexit deal, although he is unlikely to meet people outside of carefully-arranged visits.

Furious Scots fishermen have accused him of “betrayal” after the Christmas Eve trade agreement shut some out of crucial EU markets and created a mountain of damaging red tape.

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