LONDON (AP) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has sparked Scotland’s fury at his Conservative government by saying, according to reports, that granting powers of government to Edinburgh was a “disaster.”
The British press reported that Johnson made the statement during a video conference with Conservative Party lawmakers on Monday night, in which he also said that the handover of powers to Scotland had been the “most serious mistake” by former Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Scotland has a government and Parliament based in Edinburgh in 1999, with extensive powers in the fields of health and education. Wales and Northern Ireland also have their own regional legislatures and governments.
Johnson’s office did not deny the statements. But he said he did not criticize the devolution of powers but their use by “separatists and nationalists who want to divide the UK.”
“The prime minister has always supported return,” his office said in a statement.
The independent Scottish National Party heads the government in Edinburgh and is a strong critic of the UK government’s decision to leave the European Union. Johnson was a promoter of Brexit, approved by a narrow majority in a 2016 referendum.
Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon has also criticized Johnson’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Britain leads Europe with 52,000 deaths of people who tested positive.
Scotland voted 55% to 45% of the vote to remain in the UK in a 2014 referendum. But the ruling party maintains that Brexit has altered the situation by withdrawing Scotland from the EU against its will and is prompting a new vote. Polls indicate that the majority of Scots are in favor of independence.