Boris Johnson is planning to head north of the border to try to drum up support with Scottish voters after backing for the Union dwindled during the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite making himself a ‘minister for the Union’ after he became prime minister – a title he passed on to Chloe Smith in the last reshuffle – support for the United Kingdom under his leadership has gone backwards rather than forwards.
A pollster recently claimed that support for the UK has ‘never looked so weak’ after a Panelbase poll had support for a Yes vote in an independence referendum at 54% and support for No at 46%.
It came as support for Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of the coronavirus boosted the first minister’s approval rating to 60 points, compared to Johnson’s minus 39 points.
Allies of Johnson are said to be frustrated that Sturgeon has received a boost, when they believe she has taken similar coronavirus measures to Westminster.
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They are also unhappy with the SNP’s framing of Brexit as a ‘Westminster power grab’.
Despite dismissing claims in the House of Commons last week, the Sunday Times reports a cabinet source as saying that ‘Michael [Gove] is in panic mode about the Union and Boris is in irritated mode.’
The newspaper reports the Scottish Conservatives will be asked to report to cabinet outlining how it is attempting to counteract a rise in support for independence.
Johnson is planning to visit all corners of the UK including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The news reached Sturgeon on the weekend of her 50th birthday. She tweeted: ‘Nice of Boris to send me a birthday pressie (And for those who take Twitter a tad too seriously – this is a joke!)’