The Prime Minister faced calls to return to Scotland and say sorry for “thanking” Margaret Thatcher’s legacy of coal mine closures.
Boris Johnson’s comment drew a furious backlash on Thursday at the end of a short visit where he was trying to promote advances in renewable energy.
His spokesman tried to damping the reaction on Friday by saying he “recognised the pain” felt in former mining communities.
Meanwhile, it was also reported Mr Johnson had been joined on his trip by a member of staff who has tested positive for Covid-19. Downing Street denied he was in close contact and said he will not go into isolation.
The SNP continued to put pressure on the Prime Minister for his remarks about industry. The rapid closure of mining was blamed for leaving deep problems and inequality still affecting areas of central Scotland and Fife.
The SNP’s Owen Thompson, MP for an area which takes in the national mining museum in Midlothian, said: “The Prime Minister should have the decency to book a return ticket to Scotland, so he can visit our local mining communities to apologise in person and see first-hand the devastation caused.
“These are the same communities that are being hit hard by Johnson’s Tory austerity cuts, with the £1,040 cut to Universal Credit slashing the incomes of families across Scotland.
“Perhaps Mr Johnson could even find the time to meet with Scotland’s First Minister and discuss covid recovery plans instead of scuttling off to botched photo ops with his Tory colleagues.”
‘Thanks to Margaret Thatcher’
Before his arrival on Wednesday, Mr Johnson declined an invitation to meet Nicola Sturgeon.
Instead, he met party colleagues in tightly controlled operations with little opportunity for media access.
He made the controversial comment about the Thatcher years while on short virtual briefing for journalists, held remotely while he was on a boat near an offshore wind farm
“Look at what we’ve done already,” he said. “We’ve transitioned away from coal in my lifetime.
“Thanks to Margaret Thatcher, who closed so many coal mines across the country, we had a we had a big early start and we’re now moving rapidly away from coal altogether.”
Mr Drakeford, and Labour leader Keir Starmer, joined the chorus of anger.
‘Prime Minister recognises the pain’
Responding to the backlash on Friday, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said: “The Prime Minister recognises the huge impact and pain closing coal mines had in communities across the UK.
“This Government has an ambitious plan to tackle the critical issue of climate change, which includes reducing reliance on coal and other non-renewable energy sources.
“During the visit the Prime Minister pointed to the huge progress already made in the UK transitioning away from coal and towards cleaner forms of energy, and our commitment to supporting people and industries on that transition.”
Asked if Mr Johnson will apologise, the spokesman said: “You’ve got my words there, the Prime Minister recognises the huge impact and pain closing coal mines had in communities across the UK.”
Ms Sturgeon said lives and communities across Scotland were “utterly devastated by Mrs Thatcher’s destruction of the coal industry”, adding that it had “zero to do with any concern she had for the planet”.