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Johnson’s refusal to meet is a missed opportunity, not a snub – Sturgeon

·4-min read

Nicola Sturgeon has said Boris Johnson’s refusal to meet her during his visit to Scotland is a “missed opportunity” but not a “snub”.

The Prime Minister arrived north of the border on Wednesday but declined an invitation to hold talks with Scotland’s First Minister.

His first public engagement of the trip began shortly after 2pm when he went into a meeting with senior Police Scotland officers to discuss policing at the Cop26 international climate summit, which is taking place in Glasgow in autumn.

Ms Sturgeon had invited him to meet at her official Edinburgh residence, Bute House, to discuss the UK’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

But the Prime Minister will not find time to meet Ms Sturgeon during his two-day visit.

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She told broadcasters: “I don’t feel snubbed. I think most people will think it’s a bit odd, and a bit strange, that we’ve got a Prime Minister visiting Scotland who talks a lot, rightly, about the need – despite our political differences – for us to work together where we can on getting through Covid and into Covid recovery but doesn’t take the opportunity when in Scotland to come and talk to me directly about how we might co-operate and work together.

“I think people will just find that strange and it’s for Boris Johnson to explain, I suppose, why.

“This would be the first opportunity, given Covid, for us to sit down, appropriately socially distanced, and have a face-to-face chat. I think it would have been a good opportunity.

“I was getting ready to welcome him to Bute House today. There’s lots that Boris Johnson and I fundamentally disagree on but we both lead governments that are trying to get our countries through Covid and so there’s a lot for us to co-operate on.

“So, you know, missed opportunity but that’s on him. I stand ready to work with whoever, however I can to get Scotland through Covid and into recovery.”

In a letter to Ms Sturgeon, the Prime Minister said: “As I noted when we last met, I am keen to arrange an in-person meeting with you and the other first ministers and deputy first minister to build on the constructive discussions we had earlier this summer.

“We agreed then that we should establish a structured forum for ongoing engagement between the Government and the devolved administrations to deliver tangible outcomes in the interest of people throughout the UK.”

Mr Johnson said he is “particularly keen that we work closely together on the vaccination booster campaign this autumn”.

He added: “I look forward to meeting with you soon and working together in the interests of people in all parts of our country.”

Ms Sturgeon acknowledged in her invitation letter on Monday she and Mr Johnson “differ politically”, but stressed the Scottish and UK governments must “work together where we can”.

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The Prime Minister’s visit to Scotland is likely to see further questions about his resistance to a second referendum on independence.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove used a Sunday Mail interview to say the UK Government would not stand in the way of a plebiscite if it was the “settled will” of the Scottish people.

But he stressed: “I just don’t think that it is right, and the public don’t think it is right, to ask that question at the moment.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is also in Scotland, where he is focusing on the fight against climate change in the run-up to the United Nations Cop26 climate summit which will see world leaders gather in Glasgow in November.

Sir Keir wrote in the Guardian that the Prime Minister is “missing in action” on the climate agenda.

“The world is looking to Britain, as host of the summit, to deliver,” Sir Keir said. “We cannot afford to miss this moment, but I fear we will.”

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