Boris Johnson, not devolution, is the 'disaster' for the Union – Scotsman comment

So Scottish devolution has been a “disaster” and it, rather than the Iraq War, was Tony Blair’s “biggest mistake”?

Boris Johnson's foolish and unnecessary remarks about devolution being a 'disaster' have undermined the unionist cause (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson's foolish and unnecessary remarks about devolution being a 'disaster' have undermined the unionist cause (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson’s reported remarks, not denied by Number 10, will prompt many unionists to view the Prime Minister as the real disaster for their cause.

Downing Street’s attempt to row back on their boss’s words – “the PM has always supported devolution... devolution is great, but not when it's used by... nationalists to break up the UK” – will ring hollow for many in Scotland, where devolution is widely regarded as a positive step.

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It may have been an attempt at political analysis but, if so, it was foolish and unnecessary, particularly as it is effectively the opening salvo of the Scottish Parliament election campaign, although a worse incident of friendly fire could hardly have been imagined by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross.

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Support for independence might have risen above 50 per cent in recent polls, but mostly by a few points. Opinion is still divided and an election campaign will focus minds on the practical consequences of voting for independence-supporting parties, issues like the currency, pensions, and tax rises and/or spending cuts to reduce the Scottish deficit.

Understandably, this has a tendency to reduce levels of support for going leaving the UK. This is one reason why some in the SNP believe polls should consistently show 60 per cent support for independence before a second referendum is called: some of Jim Sillars’ “90-minute nationalists” may slip away.

But Johnson’s remarks, which are basically doing the SNP’s work for them, will only help them reach that benchmark. For one, it sounds defeatist, as if the game is up for the Union. Furthermore, the SNP are likely to use this to add weight to their “power grab” claims – if the Prime Minister thinks devolution is a disaster, then surely he will want to somehow sort that out?

It may not be true but his blundering words also give the impression Johnson either does not understand Scotland or does not care about it.

And, in a midst of the Covid pandemic and the looming threat to our economy of the Brexit transition period ending, devolution is the disaster?

His remarks will not decide May’s election, but Johnson has just handed a sizeable propaganda victory to the SNP.

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