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Boris Johnson news – live: Protests on Orkney as PM makes case for union and Nicola Sturgeon accuses him of politicising pandemic

Follow live updates here 

Rory Sullivan,Samuel Osborne,Conrad Duncan
Thursday 23 July 2020 16:16 BST
Coronavirus crisis highlights benefits of Union, Boris Johnson says

Boris Johnson has spoken about the merits of the union while downplaying calls for Scottish independence on a visit to Scotland on Thursday.

After the prime minister implied that Scotland's coronavirus response benefited from being part of the UK, Nicola Sturgeon accused of him politicising the pandemic, adding that leaders should not use the crisis as "some kind of political campaigning tool".

Earlier on Thursday, Ms Sturgeon remained firm on her stance about independence, tweeting that the country's future is currently being "decided by politicians we didn't vote for, taking us down a path we haven't chosen".


PM visits Scotland in 'panic mode' over union 

Boris Johnson will plead with Scots to move away from independence during his first visit since the pandemic started, writes Rob Merrick

Arguing that the UK has shown its “sheer might” during the pandemic, the prime minister will lay out his case for the union. 

His comments come after some have accused him of being in “panic mode” about the increased support for Scottish independence.

According to two recent surveys, 54 per cent of respondents want to see Scotland split from the UK. 

Rory Sullivan23 July 2020 08:15

Sturgeon discusses independence on day of PM visit

Nicola Sturgeon has welcomed Boris Johnson to Scotland on Twitter but has cautioned him that Scotland has the right to decide its own future. 

Scotland's first minister stressed that a key argument for independence is Scotland's ability to make its own decision rather than being told what to do by Westminster.

In a follow-up tweet, Ms Sturgeon said she shared the sentiment of a cartoon in The Times in which Mr Johnson is depicted running towards her over a crumbling set of stones that spell out "the union". 

Rory Sullivan23 July 2020 08:25

Sturgeon shares sentiment of Times cartoon 

Scotland's first minister has said she shares the sentiment of a cartoon in The Times which depicts the fragile state of the union, as the prime minister visits Scotland on Thursday.

The image shows Boris Johnson offering to help Nicola Sturgeon while running across a set of crumbling stones in the shape of "the union".

In a reference to Scottish independence, the cartoon shows Ms Sturgeon standing still and replying "you are helping" to the Conservative leader's desperate attempts to come to Scotland's aid. 

Rory Sullivan23 July 2020 08:36

Ministers accused of avoiding scrutiny over cut to foreign aid budget

The government has been accused of quietly pushing through a £2.9 billion cut to the foreign ahead budget, on the day that MPs left for their summer recess, writes Jon Stone.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab blamed the economic fallout from the pandemic for the decision, which was announced on Wednesday. 

However, he stressed that the UK would still meet its commitment to give 0.7 per cent of its gross national income in aid. 

Opposition critics have denounced the move as “callous”.

Rory Sullivan23 July 2020 08:50

SNP politician says Johnson's message will not convince Scotland 

The SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has said that Boris Johnson's message to Scotland on Thursday about the union will not be well-received.

On his visit to Scotland on Thursday, the prime minister is expected to say that the "sheer might" of the UK has been shown in its collective response to the pandemic. 

In response, Mr Blackford told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think he's going to find that this message is going to go down particularly badly in Scotland."

"Is he really saying that any other small nation in Europe and any other part of the world doesn't have the capability to deal with the Covid crisis?" he added. 

Rory Sullivan23 July 2020 09:00

Minister defends donations from people with Russia links

Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis has defended his decision to accept money from donors with links to Russia on the grounds that they are "British citizens".

His comments came a few days after the release of the damning Russia report into risks posed to the UK's national security, which has prompted a closer look at Russian influence in British politics. 

The former Tory Party chairman received £25,000 from Lubov Chernukhin, a banker, and £23,000 from Alexander Temerko, a former chief of a Russian arms company.

"Large" sums have also been received by another 13 members of the cabinet.

Mr Lewis told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think we need to be fairly clear about this so we don't get the facts wrong - these are British citizens."

"They are properly declared, we do not accept funds from foreign nationals," he added.

Rory Sullivan23 July 2020 09:15

Analysis of Johnson's first year in office 

The prime minister's honeymoon period in office "seems well and truly over", writes Ian Jones in an analysis of the Boris Johnson's first year in the job. 

After his election success in December, the Tory leader's approval ratings have plummeted during his handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Read more here: 

Rory Sullivan23 July 2020 09:30

UK at risk of becoming 'cultural wasteland'

Mass theatre closures and redundancies in the arts sector could lead to the UK becoming a "cultural wasteland", MPs have warned.

In a new report, the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee suggests that the government acted too late against the "existential threat" posed to the industry by the pandemic.

Although the Treasury recently gave the hard-hit sector £1.57bn, the committee said the delay in offering to help cultural institutions was "regrettable". 

The Independent's Ashley Cowburn has more here: 

Rory Sullivan23 July 2020 09:45

Leader of Scottish Tories criticises Sturgeon 

Jackson Carlaw, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives and MSP for Eastwood, has criticised Scotland's first minister for being "obsessed" about gaining independence.

Mr Carlaw retweeted a message Ms Sturgeon had written on the issue on Thursday, adding the comment "there she blows again".

He went on say that Scotland had chosen its future by voting against independence in its referendum in 2014.

The MSP also claimed that the union strengthened Scotland by protecting jobs there.

Rory Sullivan23 July 2020 10:00

UK government claims responsibility for better Covid-19 outcome in Scotland 

The government has appeared to claim credit for Scotland's coronavirus response, writes Jon Stone.

Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis said on Thursday that Boris Johnson was ultimately in charge and that devolved governments were "part of the decision we were making". 

However, devolved authorities have largely managed their own coronavirus responses since lockdown.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have much lower Covid-19 death rates than England. 

Rory Sullivan23 July 2020 10:15

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