'Do you have any authority left in Scotland?' Johnson grilled during first trip since partygate

14 February 2022, 18:47

Boris Johnson was grilled over what authority he had left in Scotland after partygate
Boris Johnson was grilled over what authority he had left in Scotland after partygate. Picture: Alamy
Gina Davidson

By Gina Davidson

Boris Johnson has refused to answer questions about his authority in Scotland during a rare trip north.

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The Prime Minister did not meet with Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross during his whirlwind visit as part of his "levelling up" agenda.

The trip was his first to Scotland since Mr Ross called for him to quit over the Downing Street partygate allegations.

His call was backed by all the Tory MSPs in Holyrood signalling a major internal rift in the party.

Today, during a visit to the Rosyth naval base in Fife, the Prime Minister was asked if he had any authority left in Scotland.

He avoided answering the question directly, instead saying he was "working very hard" with Scottish colleagues on "our joint agenda of uniting and levelling up, and delivering for the people of the whole UK."

He added: "I think we’re very proud collectively of what the UK Government has done at all levels to get us through Covid very effectively, so that we now have the fastest-growing economy in the G7 last year and this year, plus we’re working together on great projects which we’re able to do such as the free ports and such as investment in Rosyth."

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However Mr Johnson was accused by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer of always damaging the case for the union every time he headed to Scotland, while SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, said Mr Johnson's trip to Scotland should be part of his "farewell tour".

Mr Johnson's visit was supported by Iain Stewart, under-secretary of state for Scotland, who insisted the Prime Minister was in "regular contact" with both Mr Ross and Tory MSPs.

"I don’t know whether diaries didn’t align up today but this is just nonsense from opponents that they are trying to make more political drama when none exists," he said.

"Douglas Ross and the Prime Minister are in regular contact.

"I don’t know the detail of the PM’s minute-by-minute diary, I’m afraid. When I go up and visit Scotland, sometimes I meet with my MSPs colleagues, sometimes I don’t."

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Mr Johnson was also grilled on whether he had completed the Met Police's questionnaire into partygate.

The PM insisted he would have "a lot more" to say on the issue once the police investigation was concluded.

But the PM’s official spokesman said: "We will respond as required. As you know, I think the Met made clear that was in seven days, so we will comply with that requirement."

Asked if the responses would be made public, the spokesman said: "No."

The Prime Minister may face growing calls to resign if he cannot convince police he was not in breach of regulations, and has reportedly begun preparing legal advice.

Fifteen Tory MPs have publicly called for Mr Johnson to quit, while more are thought to have privately written to the 1922 Committee of backbench Tories calling for a no-confidence vote.