British prime minister visits Scotland as calls for independence grow

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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in central London on February 26, 2020, to take part in Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) at the House of Commons. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in central London on February 26, 2020, to take part in Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) at the House of Commons. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)

dpa/GNA – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to visit Scotland on Thursday as questions arise over the strength of the union between Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Ministers in Johnson’s cabinet said he was visiting the country to monitor ongoing efforts to roll out the coronavirus vaccine, in comments to broadcasters.

But reports in The Sun newspaper suggested his visit is to remind Scottish people of the benefits of being part of a broader union.

The reports came after polls revealed a majority of residents in Scotland wanted a referendum to decide if Scotland should remain part of the union, according to a report in the Sunday Times last week.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has criticised Johnson’s decision to travel to Scotland from his home in England as both countries have strict lockdowns in place, including stay-at-home orders.

On Thursday, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove told the BBC the trip counted as necessary travel as Johnson needed to be “on the frontline” to make sure the vaccination rollout “is effective as possible.”

But in a press briefing on Wednesday, Sturgeon told journalists: “I would say me travelling from Edinburgh to Aberdeen to visit a vaccine centre is not essential. Boris Johnson travelling from London to wherever in Scotland to do the same is not essential.”

Johnson’s team have not revealed the sites he will visit in Scotland but his trip comes after French biotech firm Valneva – which has a factory in Scotland – announced it would start manufacturing its vaccine candidate.

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