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Boris Johnson claims push for independence referendum ‘completely irrelevant’ to most Scots

Rob Merrick
·3 min read
 (PA)
(PA)

The campaign for another Scottish independence referendum is “completely irrelevant” and most people want to focus on beating the pandemic, Boris Johnson says.

On a visit north of the border, the prime minister attacked the SNP’s failure to give “any clear description of what the constitutional situation will be”, if the party succeeded in breaking up the UK.

“We don’t know what the point of it would be, or what happens to the army, what happens to the crown, what happens to the pound, what happens to the Foreign Office, what happens to security,” he told reporters.

Mr Johnson added: “The endless talk about a referendum – without any clear description of what the constitutional situation will be after that referendum – is completely irrelevant now to the concerns of most people, who I think want us to beat this pandemic.”

He also dismissed the issues faced by Scottish fish exporters – some shut out of EU markets by his Brexit deal – as “inevitable teething problems” before a bright future.

“Be in no doubt that, over the medium term, and much more over the long term, the changes are very beneficial for Scottish fishing,” the prime minister claimed.

Speaking at a Covid-19 vaccine lab in Livingston, Mr Johnson sought to argue Scots had needed the might of the UK to fight the virus effectively.

Nicola Sturgeon has raised the stakes by planning to stage an advisory independence referendum if – after the expected SNP triumph in May elections – he seeks to block a second poll.

Mr Johnson ducked a question about whether he would boycott a referendum, saying: “My focus is on defeating the pandemic.

“I don’t think that the right thing to do is to talk endlessly about another referendum when I think what the people of the country want, what the people of Scotland want in particular, is for us to fight this pandemic.”

He added: “I think what people want to see is us bouncing back more strongly together.

“I don’t see the advantage in us getting lost in pointless constitutional wrangling when, after all, we had a referendum not so very long ago.”

And, pressed on Jacob Rees-Mogg calling Ms Sturgeon “Moanalot”, Mr Johnson said he did not want to get involved in “petty, personal, political issues”.

He also brushed off a German assessment that the AstraZeneca vaccine should only be given to under-65s, insisting it “provides a good immune response across all age groups”.

Asked if he was concerned, Mr Johnson replied: “No, because I think the MHRA, our own authorities, have made it very clear that they think the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is very good.”

It “gives a high degree of protection after just one dose and even more after two doses”, the regulator had found.

“And the evidence they’ve supplied is they think it’s effective across all age groups and provides a good immune response across all age groups,” the prime minister said.

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