Exclusive

Sir Keir Starmer tells LBC he supports PM's 'perfectly legitimate' Scotland trip

28 January 2021, 09:26 | Updated: 28 January 2021, 09:36

Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

The Prime Minister's trip to a Covid-19 vaccine centre in Scotland is "perfectly legitimate", Sir Keir Starmer has told LBC.

The Labour Leader said it was "important that he travels to see what's going on on the ground" despite criticism from Scottish political leaders including Nicola Sturgeon who said it was not essential travel.

Sir Keir told Nick Ferrari: "I understand he's going to see a vaccine centre, going to talk to the NHS and I'd expect the Prime Minister to do that.

Read more: Boris Johnson to visit Scotland despite Sturgeon warning his trip is "not essential"

"Obviously I'm his opposite number but I've got to defend him on this one - he's the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom - he needs to know what's going on on the ground."

It follows Nicola Sturgeon's warning that Boris Johnson's trip was "not essential" during lockdown, arguing that politicians have a "duty to lead by example" as the public live under tight restrictions.

There are suggestions the PM is going to Scotland to promote the Union amid growing concerns in Westminster about support for Scottish independence.

Read more: Covid-19 infections in England have flattened but sill at highest recorded level

Ms Sturgeon argues there would be grounds for a new referendum if her SNP party wins a majority in the Holyrood elections scheduled for May.

But Mr Starmer insisted his trip to a vaccine factory in the country "helps us understand the logistics" and how effective the rollout of the jab is.

Sir Keir Starmer tolds LBC that Boris Johnson&squot;s trip was "entirely legitimate"
Sir Keir Starmer tolds LBC that Boris Johnson's trip was "entirely legitimate". Picture: LBC

It follows a similar defence of the trip by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, who said the visit was "as part of the efforts that the Prime Minister and all ministers make" as part of the job.

"When the Prime Minister visits Oxford or Manchester," he added, "he's doing so in order to ensure that we learn from those on the frontline.

"Politicians are sometimes entirely legitimately criticised for being detached and living in ivory towers in Whitehall. Sometimes it's appropriate for all of us to roll up our sleeves and get there on the frontline."

Read more: Gove tells LBC PM's trip to Scotland is about Covid jab rollout, not independence

The tour was announced just days after the Scottish National Party (SNP) laid out an '11-point roadmap' to secure independence ahead of the Holyrood elections later this year.

But Mr Gove denied the trip was being used to counter the pro-independence narrative, suggesting there would be an "overwhelming focus" on ensuring the vaccine "can be effective as possible".