On the one-year anniversary of being elected Conservative Party leader and the last day of his first year in No. 10 Downing Street, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Scotland to meet with local businesses, entrepreneurs, and members of the military.
Johnson hoped the trip would reaffirm his promise “to be a prime minister for every corner of the United Kingdom,” and to “see our whole country coming back strongly together.”
Ahead of the visit, the prime minister pledged £50 million ($63.4 million) to the remote Orkney, Shetland, and the Western Isles, to “help develop the islands’ economic potential.”
Speaking on Thursday on the Scottish archipelago of Orkney, Johnson stressed that a united kingdom is important for getting through the colder months, when the country is bracing for the possibility of a second wave of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus outbreak, the flu, the impact of Brexit, and flooding striking simultaneously.
“I think the merits of the Union are very, very strong,” he said.
“The Union is a fantastically strong institution. It’s helped our country through thick and thin.”
The prime minister said he was in Orkney to encourage cooperation to deal with the economic consequences of the pandemic and to see how investment in green technology can be part of the recovery.
Johnson’s visit is amid a long-lasting political debate on Scottish independence between Britain’s ruling Conservative Party and the Scottish National Party (SNP), which governs the semi-autonomous Scotland.
With some polls suggesting a slim majority of people in Scotland now support independence from the rest of the United Kingdom, Johnson was keen to press the case for the whole country working together to tackle the CCP virus and its economic impact.
“It’s very, very valuable in terms of the support we’ve been able to give to everybody throughout all corners of the UK,” Johnson said.
“We had a referendum on breaking up the Union a few years ago—I think only six years ago. That is not a generation by any computation and I think what people really want to do is see our whole country coming back strongly together, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Speaking to the BBC, he emphasised how “[The Union] working together with money for supporting people through furlough, the Army working on the testing, moving people around” was a manifestation of the success of the union.
However, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, who will not be meeting the prime minister this time, did not share the same view.
“I don’t think any of us should be trying to use COVID, the pandemic and the crisis situation we are facing … as some kind of political campaigning tool,” she said.
The SNP has accused Johnson of muddled messaging on the CCP virus, and decided to implement its own lockdown strategy independently of London.
Reuters contributed to this report