Did Boris Johnson blunder as is his custom, or has he willfully blown the embers of discord between the UK government and Scotland? On Monday November 16, during a videoconference meeting with 60 Tory MPs representing the northern region of England, the Tory PM, in response to a question, said: « The devolution was a disaster north of the border and was Tony Blair’s biggest mistake. “
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In another context, the remark would have been considered innocuous. But while the UK has left Europe and struggles to negotiate an agreement to finalize the future relationship with Brussels, it has been unwelcome and potentially explosive.
It is indeed aimed at Scotland, while Tony Blair, who became Prime Minister in May 1997 under the promise of greater autonomy granted to this territory, ensured a decentralization of powers. In 1998, it allowed the creation of a Scottish Parliament (Scottish Parliament) 129 deputies, with the power to legislate in the political and fiscal areas devolved to it. The same was then granted to Wales and Northern Ireland.
In this way, to thwart independence tendencies
The objective of the Labor Prime Minister at the time was precisely to thwart Scottish independence tendencies, by granting more power to local authorities. But while Boris Johnson’s words continue to agitate political circles, his cabinet does not deny them, and even drives home the point: « The Prime Minister has always supported devolution. This government continues to put the Union at the heart of everything it does, the Downing Street spokesperson said. The Prime Minister has been clear he believes the four corners of the UK are stronger together, and he will be the voice of the majority of the Scottish people who have voted clearly for the unity of the kingdom. “
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A reference to the 2014 referendum in Scotland, where the no to independence won at 55.3%, against the yes at 44.7%. Boris Johnson’s remark does not make it easier for the Scottish Conservatives, as in May 2021 elections for the local Parliament will take place.
Long assimilated to an English party – therefore very much in the minority in Scotland – the Scottish Conservative Party enjoyed local representation thanks to the Scottish Parliament, the creation of which it was nevertheless opposed. Still in the minority in the last election, it won 31 seats while the Scottish National Party (SNP) came out ahead with 68 seats.
A “team for the Union”
In this region of the United Kingdom where we voted 62% against Brexit, where the Scottish conservatives themselves campaigned to keep in the EU, Boris Johnson’s uncompromising stance on Brexit as his Remarks on devolution only strengthen the separatists. “The Prime Minister was caught with his hand in the bag showing his contempt for the Scottish Parliament”, wrote, in its Wednesday edition, The National, the daily life of the separatists.
The day after his remarks, we learned that Boris Johnson was going to launch, in the coming weeks, a “Team for the Union” composed of English, Welsh and Scottish Conservative MPs, tasked with finding ideas and arguments in favor of keeping Scotland in the Union. Because the Scottish National Party (SNP) and its leader, Nicola Sturgeon, have the wind in their sails. In October, according to a poll by the Ipsos Mori Institute, 58% of Scots would vote in favor of independence if a referendum was held. An unprecedented majority.