The Prime Minister has continued to deny Nicola Sturgeon’s demands for a second Scottish independence referendum, with Boris Johnson using a visit north to make clear that constitutional change “is not top of my agenda”.
Instead he insisted that there are “phenomenal” opportunities for the UK to look forward to as the country seeks to recover from the coronavirus crisis.
Ms Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister and SNP leader, has repeatedly argued for the powers of independence to shape a new Scotland in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
She has previously made plain her desire to have another vote on the future of the UK before the end of 2023.
But the Prime Minister, speaking towards the end of a two-day visit to Scotland, declared: “I think the priority for our country as a whole is bouncing back together, working our way forwards from this pandemic together, and I think the opportunities are absolutely phenomenal.
“But the emphasis, I think, has got to be on economic recovery and I think constitutional change, it’s not top of my agenda, let me put it that way.”
He stressed his priorities were “bouncing back strongly from Covid, working together on that, continuing to deliver the vaccine”.
Other issues where people want action, such as tackling county drugs lines gangs, also need to be tackled across the whole of the UK”, he added.
Mr Johnson insisted: “You can see the way the UK has to work together to do this.
“There are a huge number of things that we need to do together and that’s what I want to focus on.”
The Tory leader stressed his Government was “focused on jobs and on economic rebound, and green economic growth”.
He added he was “looking forward very much to continuing our work with the Government in Scotland” – even though he turned down an offer to meet Ms Sturgeon during his trip.
However, he insisted politicians across the UK were “working together to get through the pandemic and to build back better”.
Mr Johnson stated: “I think that is the priority that the British people seem focused on from where I sit.”
He also argued it was the success of the UK’s coronavirus vaccination programme that had given the country “our ability to bounce forward together”.
The Prime Minister said: “It is no accident that the UK is now one of the most open economies and societies in the whole of Europe. That is because we have vaccinated just about the highest proportion of our adult population, not just once, but twice.
“That is enabling us to make a great deal of progress.”