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Nicola Sturgeon claims ‘stench of sleaze’ around Conservative party

Nicola Sturgeon Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon attacked Boris Johnson’s character after allegations he had been prepared to let “bodies pile high” instead of ordering another Covid lockdown.

Ms Sturgeon said the comments, which Downing Street deny, were “believable”.

The SNP leader said: “I feel a mixture of shock but also a lack of surprise. I don’t know whether he said that because I wasn’t there.

“But I’m afraid to say, based on my interactions with him including over the past year, I don’t find it impossible to believe. On the contrary, I think it’s eminently believable.”

The Daily Mail had carried the claim that following a second lockdown in England the Prime Minister said he would rather see “bodies pile high in their thousands” than order a third one.

Tory ministers and Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross dismissed the claim as “gossip” spread by “unnamed advisers”.

The decision on the second lockdown last autumn was leaked and is the subject of an inquiry to find the so-called “chatty rat” who tipped off the press.

It sparked a political storm that put the focus back on Mr Johnson’s relationship with former aide Dominic Cumming, who denies being responsible for the leak.

Ms Sturgeon, speaking to reporters on Monday, said it’s the latest damaging claim facing the Tory government.

Nicola Sturgeon Boris Johnson
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon.

The Prime Minister is under scrutiny about claims of sleaze, special access and tax break offers to Brexit-supporting billionaire businessman James Dyson.

Meanwhile, opposition parties are focusing on another of Mr Cummings’ allegations, about how Mr Johnson paid for the lavish refurbishment of his official Downing Street flat.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We have issues around David Cameron lobbying, we’ve got all sorts of concerns about contracts being handed out on Covid-related matters, we’ve got text messages between Boris Johnson and Dyson, we’ve got the stuff about the Boris Johnson’s flat refurb – the list is endless.

“I reflect a little bit on the last number of months when, as you probably recall, I was under a fair bit of pressure and scrutiny myself because of allegations made – allegations I was cleared on by an independent adviser on the ministerial code.

“That wasn’t comfortable, it wasn’t pleasant – it’s not been the most enjoyable few months of my political career – but I accept it was absolutely right that I was subjected to that degree of scrutiny.

“I had the Tories calling for my resignation before I’d been allowed to utter a single world in my defence.”

‘Real stench of sleaze’

The SNP leader added: “I do think there is a need for real, proper investigation and real and proper scrutiny around the swirling of allegations around Johnson and the Tory party.

“It is genuinely a real stench of sleaze and it is in the public interest that these things are properly addressed and properly answered.”

Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly had to fend off Tory attempts to topple her from government over claims about her handling of harassment complaints against Alex Salmond, the former SNP leader.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross – who had led those attempts to target Ms Sturgeon – echoed the Downing Street denial about his own UK party leader.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross.

Mr Ross, the MP for Moray, said: “The Prime Minister and Number 10 have been very clear he did not make the comments that have been suggested. Those comments, made by anyone at any level of elected office in the country, would be utterly unacceptable.

“I don’t think I would want to say any more to give those comments any more air time, because they will be deeply troubling to the tens of thousands of families that have lost loved ones. But the Prime Minister has been clear he did not make those comments.”

He added: “No one should make comments like that, in the middle of a global pandemic, when so many families have been affected by this.

“I can’t say more strongly that comments like that are completely indefensible and unacceptable. But the Prime Minister has said he did not make those comments.”

Mr Ross backed the Prime Minister but had not spoken directly to him about the claims.

Labour and Greens joined the SNP in condemning the Conservatives with less than two weeks until the Holyrood election.

‘Unfit for government’

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “This reported comment is repugnant and deeply distressing.

“More than 10,000 families in Scotland and 130,000 families across the UK are grieving the loss of a loved one.

Anas Sarwar.

“These alleged remarks have rightly been condemned by politicians from all parties, and I hope the Prime Minister reflects and apologises.

“We owe it to everyone affected by the pandemic to focus on our national recovery.

“Boris Johnson’s Tories aren’t fit to be in government across the UK or the opposition at Holyrood.”

‘Heartless and disgraceful’

Alistair Carmichael, the Lib Dem MP for Orkney and Shetland, said: “”If this quote is correct, it is a truly atrocious comment from an atrocious Prime Minister.

“When Johnson himself was hospitalised well wishes flooded in from across the country, it’s sad that he does not share the shame concern for others.”

Lorna Slater, Co-leader of the Scottish Greens said: “The latest comments attributed to Boris Johnson are heartless and disgraceful.

“If true, they show a callous disregard for families all across the UK who have lost loved ones and underline that Johnson is unfit to be Prime Minister.

“But these accusations should not be seen in isolation. The way in which Downing Street handled the pandemic was wrong from the start, and saw one of the worst death rates in the world.

Scottish Greens
Scottish Green co-leader Lorna Slater.

“So much of the misery could have been avoided if they had followed WHO advice on testing, closed the borders and implemented a functional test, trace and isolate system, instead of gumming up the works of public procurement and risking supplies of vital PPE and equipment by creating a VIP lane for their pals and donors.

“Scotland can do so much better than this. We can and must steer a path towards transparent politics, with integrity that respects human life above all.

“The consequences are far too serious. Scotland has a way out, and that is to vote for a pro-independence majority in next week’s election, and the Scottish Greens can secure that. Our future depends on it.”