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Boris Johnson is determined to be the “voice” of the anti-independence majority in Scotland, Downing Street said, after a minister branded those pushing for a second referendum “frankly mad”. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Mr Johnson had always fully supported Scottish devolution – despite reportedly describing it as a “disaster” in a conference call with Tory MPs – and would be on the side of those who voted “decisively” in 2014 to keep the Union intact. Deputy First Minister of Scotland John Swinney has claimed Mr Johnson’s comments are an attack on the Scottish government.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Swinney said: “The Prime Minister describing devolution in Scotland as a disaster is an important corroboration for us that the Tory Government in London is unleashing an attack on the powers of the Scottish parliament.
“We’ve seen that in the Internal Market Bill and the Prime Minister has now confirmed that with his own words.
“Secondly, what I would say about the Housing Secretary’s remarks, what they rather ignore is people in Scotland are by a significant margin supporting the national party.
“The electorate is deciding they want the SNP to lead our country, to lead us in the last three elections.
“We have very significant support and I think that’s indicative of people in Scotland wanting to decide their own constitutional future, they want Scotland to be independent and they want the opportunity to choose that future.
“The Conservatives can’t ignore democracy.”
But Twitter users were quick to hit out at Mr Swinney.
One wrote: “The Powers of the Scottish Parliament have been under attack constantly by the SNP since came to power.
“When they lose a vote they just ignore Parliament and dictate the outcome.”
Another said: “Just a reminder for all of you new to Scotch politics. Swinney and the SNP don’t like devolution either.”
Another viewer said: “These cringe-worthy attempts to bring the Government down reflect your anger and opposition to independence. Nothing more.”
Someone else said: “What a load of rubbish.”
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon seized on Mr Johnson’s comments, which come just a few months before the Scottish Parliament elections next year, by suggesting independence was the best answer for the devolved administration.
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In response to the remarks, which also included Mr Johnson saying he could not “see a case” for handing down more powers, Scotland’s First Minister tweeted: “Worth bookmarking these Prime Minister comments for the next time Tories say they’re not a threat to the powers of the Scottish Parliament – or, even more incredibly, that they support devolving more powers.
“The only way to protect and strengthen the Scottish Parliament is with independence.”
But Number 10 said Mr Johnson would be standing up for the majority verdict at the last “once-in-a-generation” independence referendum, where 55 percent of those who voted decided in favour of Scotland remaining part of the UK.
“The Prime Minister has always fully supported devolution. This Government continues to put the Union at the heart of everything that we do,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.
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