Prime Minister Boris Johnson cast Scottish devolution as a “disaster” and ruled out any further powers for Edinburgh just as Scottish nationalists push for a second referendum that opinion surveys show could break apart the United Kingdom.
The past 14 opinion surveys have shown that a majority of Scots now support independence after a series of missteps by Johnson’s government over its response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In a video call with northern lawmakers from his Conservative Party, Johnson said that devolution had been a disaster and former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s “biggest mistake”, The Sun newspaper reported.
Johnson added that he did not currently “see a case” for giving the devolved government in Edinburgh any more powers from London, The Sun said.
Scots rejected independence by 55 to 45 percent in a 2014 referendum but a five-year political crisis in London over Brexit and the COVID-19 outbreak have strained the bonds that tie the United Kingdom together.
While the United Kingdom as a whole voted to leave the European Union in the 2016 Brexit referendum, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay while England and Wales voted to leave.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who is pushing for another independence referendum, criticised Johnson’s comments.
“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,” her tweet said.
The only way to protect and strengthen the Scottish Parliament is with independence, she added.
Under the UK’s delicate constitutional balance, semi-autonomous parliaments and governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland known as the devolved administrations have powers over areas like education, health, policing and justice.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross tweeted, saying devolution is not a disaster.
“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,” he said on Twitter.