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Speaking to ITV’s Peston, the Tory frontbencher claimed the Prime Minister intended to highlight the SNP’s relentless attempts to break up the UK when he said devolution has been a “disaster”. Boris Johnson was reported to have told a group of northern Tory MPs that devolution had been Tony Blair’s “biggest mistake” in the north.
But George Eustice defended the Prime Minister as he added: “The Scottish National Party have undermined devolution because they’ve used it to sow division and have used it to try to advance a separatist agenda.
“Rather than using as it was intended, as a genuine devolved settlement where powers were devolved and administrations would exercise those powers.
“What we’ve seen constantly with the SNP is them using those powers to try to drive a wedge between Scotland and the UK.”
On Wednesday, Boris Johnson was labelled the “single biggest threat” to the UK and came under fire over COVID-19 contracts as he responded to Prime Minister’s Questions from self-isolation.
The Prime Minister appeared on television screens in the House of Commons chamber after being confined to Downing Street following contact with Tory MP Lee Anderson, who tested positive for coronavirus.
Sir Keir Starmer was in his usual seat in the chamber as he asked why Mr Johnson had said Scottish devolution was “a disaster”, before raising further concerns over how taxpayers’ cash has been spent on securing vital equipment during the pandemic.
The Labour leader demanded a “cast-iron” assurance from Mr Johnson that future Government contracts would be subject to the proper processes.
His remarks came after the National Audit Office found a lack of transparency around some of the key decisions taken as £18billion of coronavirus contracts were awarded by the end of July.
Mr Johnson responded by labelling Sir Keir “Captain Hindsight”, and defended the Government’s efforts to secure personal protective equipment.
Opening Prime Minister’s Questions, Sir Keir described devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as “one of the proudest achievements of the last Labour government” as he pressed Mr Johnson on his comments.
The Prime Minister replied: “I think what has unquestionably been a disaster is the way in which the Scottish National Party have taken and used devolution as means not to improve the lives of their constituents, not to address their health concerns, not to improve education in Scotland, but constantly – and I know this is actually a point of view that is shared by (Sir Keir) – but constantly to campaign for the break-up of our country.
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“To turn devolution, otherwise a sound policy for which I myself personally benefited when I was running London, but turn devolution into a mission to break up the UK.
“That, in my view, would be a disaster.”
Sir Keir countered that “the single biggest threat to the future of the United Kingdom is the Prime Minister every time he opens his mouth”.
He continued: “When the Prime Minister said he wanted to take back control nobody thought he meant from the Scottish people. The Prime Minister’s quote is very clear – he said devolution has been a disaster north of the border.”
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