Listen up, Boris! Sturgeon orders UK to take SNP demands ‘seriously’ after crunch summit

Nicola Sturgeon grilled by Sarwar on handling of pandemic

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The First Minister released a stern statement urging the Prime Minister to follow through on his plan to include input from all four nations in his master plan. She said Holyrood’s pledge to work with Westminster is conditional on whether “key concerns” from Scots are listened to and addressed.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We are of course willing to work together on recovery from the pandemic, but the UK Government needs to listen and act on key Scottish Government concerns.

“Because of the powers that rest in Westminster the decisions the UK Government takes have a major impact on the kind of fair recovery we are trying to build in Scotland.

“I sought assurances that there would be no return to the cruel and damaging austerity of the past and that furlough and the £20 uplift in Universal Credit will be extended.

“The proof of the worth of this meeting depends on whether the UK Government takes these issues seriously and responds accordingly.”

The leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) went on to accuse Mr Johnson’s Government of undermining devolution.

She added: “This meeting also took place at a time when the UK Government is undermining devolution through the Internal Market Act and diverting funding away from the Scottish Parliament.

“This has to stop and instead the UK Government needs to start treating the Scottish Government and other devolved governments as equal partners.

Her warning to the Prime Minister was echoed by Welsh Labour First Minister Mark Drakeford, who also attended the virtual meeting.

He said Mr Johnson could cause the UK to break apart if he decides to “steal powers and steal money from the Welsh Government”.

Mr Drakeford said: “I did have to be as clear as I could with the Prime Minister that if the UK Government thinks that the best way to meld the United Kingdom together is to steal powers and steal money away from the Welsh Government, then that is deeply, deeply counterproductive and has completely the opposite impact when we have to do things differently from now on.”

Mr Johnson, Mr Drakeford and Ms Sturgeon were joined on the call by Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster and the Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove were also present as well as ministers and officials from the devolved administrations.

Ministers agreed that the meeting provided an important opportunity for dialogue between the UK Government and devolved administrations.

Mr Johnson sought to increase a sense of unity between the four nations on the call.

He reflected that, while there are divergent views on the question of the UK’s constitutional future and the UK Government and devolved administrations will not always agree, these differences should not prevent us from working together to ensure a strong recovery for all parts of the country.

Mr Sunak took the opportunity to set out the direct UK-wide support provided by the Treasury in response to the pandemic.

The package was worth around £352billion across 2020-21 and 2021-22.

The Chancellor reminded those on the call how the sacrifices of the British people coupled with our comprehensive support package and on-going vaccine rollout have laid the foundations for recovery.

Looking forward, he said as restrictions are gradually lifted there are reasons for cautious optimism with data showing the Government’s Plan for Jobs is working.

On Thursday ministers refrained from placing any additional countries on the travel green list.

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