Downing Street moved late on Monday to try and repair the damage done by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson with his comments to Tory MPs in northern England that “devolution has been a disaster north of the border.”
Johnson’s comments in a Zoom conference call were reported by The Sun newspaper, with Johnson quoted as describing the decision to devolve powers to the Scottish Parliament as “Tony Blair’s biggest mistake.”
Downing Street did not deny the comments.
An aide to Johnson said: “The PM has always supported devolution but Tony Blair failed to foresee the rise of separatists in Scotland.
“Devolution is great — but not when it’s used by separatists and nationalists to break up the UK.”
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “The Tory mask has well and truly slipped after Boris Johnson was caught red-handed claiming that Scottish devolution is a mistake.
“The Tory Government is undertaking a full-scale assault on Scotland’s devolution settlement with its power-grab bill.
“The Prime Minister’s disdain only serves to underline the growing threat we face.
“Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross might be furiously spinning tonight – but people in Scotland haven’t forgotten that he has repeatedly voted against new powers for the Scottish Parliament, rubber-stamped imposing an extreme Brexit against Scotland’s will, and voted for the UK Internal Market Bill.
“The fact is Westminster cannot be trusted to respect Scotland’s wishes.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Worth bookmarking these PM comments for the next time Tories say they’re not a threat to the powers of the Scottish Parliament – or, even more incredibly, that they support devolving more powers.
“The only way to protect & strengthen @ScotParl is with independence.”
Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross tweeted: “Devolution has not been a disaster.
“The SNP’s non-stop obsession with another referendum – above jobs, schools and everything else – has been a disaster.”