The UK government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been “defined by a lack of leadership, last-minute U-turns, mixed messaging and devastating policies”, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has claimed.
He said: “Last night the PM claimed we truly did everything we could to avoid the deaths of 100,000 people across the UK from Covid-19, but we all know that’s simply not true. The UK government response has been defined by a lack of leadership, last-minute U-turns, mixed messaging and devastating policies. All of this has had (an) effect on the scale of the pandemic.”
He added: “PM since the start of this pandemic you’ve promised to always follow the advice of scientists. Well this morning scientists have said that this government is responsible for a legacy of poor decisions during this pandemic. Does the PM still agree with the scientists?”
But Johnson replied: “We’ve throughout followed scientific advice and done everything we can to minimise disease and minimise suffering throughout the country… There are no easy solutions when you’re facing dilemmas as tragic as the ones being confronted by countries around the world.
“But I think that everywhere in the UK… can be proud of the efforts that are being made by the NHS, by the Army, by volunteers, by pharmacists to roll out the fastest vaccination in Europe. That is something the government must do, can do, is doing, and will do.”
Blackford called on the government to provide people with “financial certainty” arguing Boris Johnson had “dithered, delayed and left it too late”.
He said: “This is not about apportioning blame for honest mistakes, but it is about learning lessons from a PM who has repeatedly ignored the scientific advice. When we called on the PM to introduce tough border controls last spring he refused.”
He added: “When we told the PM it was a mistake to end lockdown prematurely and push millions of workers back to the office, he ignored us. When we said tough restrictions and full furlough support were still needed he dithered, delayed and left it too late.
“People have been asked to make huge sacrifices by his government, at least they now deserve financial certainty. Tell people straight PM, will this UK government extend furlough, maintain the Universal Credit uplift and finally, finally, offer support for the three million excluded or will he leave families struggling with the uncertainty while he dithers and delays?”
Johnson replied by talking up the “benefits of the Union”.
“I don’t think anybody could seriously deny that this government has given absolutely unprecedented and unequalled by global standards, support throughout the pandemic. We will continue to put our arms around people across the whole of the UK throughout this crisis.”