IT WAS, of course, another example of how London and Edinburgh’s thin veneer of government friendship started to crack loudly.
But this time it was about Covid-19 and it was just days before 2021, a year that is going to be an explosive political year with the Scottish national election campaign on the horizon: the referendum.
“Boris Johnson hit the headlines last February after calling Nicola Sturgeon a “bloody wee Jimmy Krankie lady” after proposing a formal role to be given to the First Minister at the COP26 climate summit. In No 10, the prime minister screamed angrily to his staff, “Over my f****** dead body,”
In November, the prime minister slipped out during a virtual meeting with his Tory colleagues that devolution was a “disaster.” in Scotland. The political gaffe gave Ms. Surgeon and her colleagues an oven-ready headline to rehash in election leaflets and on social media leading up to and beyond the May election.
This played into the controversy over the UK between Edinburgh and London. Single market regulations from the government.
But the prime minister waved his red scarf once again, this time on the highly sensitive coronavirus issue.
In a Zoom phone call to the 1922 backbench caucus of the Conservatives on Tuesday, he indicated that the Oxford vaccine, its production, and the now-expanded rollout could have been possible only because of the Union’s power.
As one Tory colleague put it, “He said that if it was up to the SNP, there wouldn’t have been a single vaccine in Scotland. It was a British effort; in other words, it needed the clout of a big government.”
Or put another way, if Scotland had been independent when Covid hit, it would simply not have had the potential to produce or spread the vaccine rapidly.
In an exchange of words in the House of Commons with the SNP’s Ian Blackford, Johnson again praised the Union’s virtues, saying that every part of the world has gained “massively from the natural strength of the British economy” and “our British NHS.”
As May approaches, there will inevitably be a growing debate about whether, given the confusion, the Scottish elections should take place at all.
Mr. Johnson would like to delay them for as long as possible, but Scottish elections are a Holyrood issue, unlike referendums.
Once the virus is back under control, with the publication of the Dunlop report on strengthening the United Kingdom, which has been accumulating dust on its desk in Downing St. since December 2019, the prime minister will initiate a Union-centric “Reset 2021” agenda.
By comparison, seeing that pro-independence candidates have been riding high in the polls for almost a year, Ms. Sturgeon needs no hesitation and wants to grab the electoral opportunity window as quickly as possible; it may not be open for long.