Michael Gove has supported Boris Johnson’s trip to Scotland to build on the nation’s Covid recovery despite the current travel ban.
The prime minister is travelling north with a plea for unity, as Britain looks to build back from the pandemic in the months and years ahead. He is expected to learn about the armed forces’ preparations for aiding the vaccination programme in Scotland during the trip.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove today defended the trip despite strict lockdown measures being in place.
Speaking on BBC’s Good Morning Scotland, Mr Gove said: “He is the prime minister of the United Kingdom, it is absolutely essential he is there to see how on the frontline we are progressing in our vaccine delivery and roll-out programme.
“It is absolutely right that the PM should not only thank those responsible for the roll-out but also see for himself how it is going.
“It is critically important the the Scottish Government and the UK Government working together do everything that we can to support the vaccine roll-out and what we can do to support it.”
Communication: Zoom calls, social media and new technologies
Communicating through technologies is nothing new for prime minister, who actively uses social media to promote his party’s message.
But it has been argued that Mr Johnson could make an address to the Scottish people online, and at her daily briefing yesterday First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she did not believe the trip was “essential”.
Mr Gove however insisted there is “no substitute” for being on the ground, and said: “Whether it is in a factory in Wrexham, talking to a soldier on the frontline or talking to our NHS professionals – the prime minister is being welcomed because people recognise he is leading from the front.”
The visit comes after another weekend of opinion polls showing majority support for independence and after the SNP announced a second independence referendum would be held, with or without Westminster’s approval, if May’s Holyrood elections returned a pro-independence majority.
Questioned if the Conservatives would legally challenge a second referendum in the courts, Mr Gove said he was “not even thinking about that” as he encouraged others to focus on the lasting effects of the pandemic.
He said: “Anyone talking about a referendum at this point is perhaps not focusing on dealing with the pandemic and preparing for the economic recovery as a country we need.
“I’m concentrating everyday on making sure we support our NHS, we help people deal with this dreadful disease and also we use the broad shoulders of the UK treasury to support jobs and firms in Scotland in order to keep people in work.”
An unwelcome visitor
On Wednesday the Westminster SNP health spokesman, Neale Hanvey, described the visit as “futile Union Jackery” that could “risk lives”.
Ms Sturgeon echoed the sentiment at her daily Covid briefing, suggesting the prime minister’s visit is not an “essential” journey and has now called for a “comprehensive system of supervised quarantine” for travellers arriving in the UK.
The first minister said: “We are living in a global pandemic and every day right now I stand, look down the camera, and say: don’t travel unless it is really essential, work from home if you possibly can.
“People like me and Boris Johnson have to be in work for reasons that I think most people understand. But we don’t have to travel across the UK as part of that.
“Is that really essential right now? Because we have a duty to lead by example.
“That is why I, perhaps, am not ecstatic about the thought of the prime minister visiting.”
Stay at home: Current travel restrictions during the pandemic
Under current Scottish law travelling between Scotland and other UK nations is forbidden unless for certain exceptions, that include, work purposes, an activity associated with seeking employment or to provide voluntary or charitable services, but only where that cannot be done from your home.
Further information can be found on the Scottish Government website.