The UK government has claimed responsibility for the better coronavirus outcome in Scotland, ahead of a visit to the country by Boris Johnson.
Speaking on Thursday morning Cabinet minister Brandon Lewis said the prime minister was ultimately in charge and that devolved administrations were simply “part of the decisions we were making”.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have significantly lower coronavirus death rates than England, and the crisis has largely been managed on a devolved basis since the UK first went into lockdown.
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Support for independence in Scotland has surged in the polls during lockdown, amid claims of mismanagement by the UK authorities on testing, PPE, and messaging.
But asked during a BBC interview why England’s death rate was much worse, Mr Lewis appeared to claim credit for the other countries’ outcomes.
“The prime minister of the United Kingdom and the cabinet of the United Kingdom is in charge of the government of the United Kingdom,” the Northern Ireland secretary told the broadcaster.
“What we’ve done through the coronavirus, we have seen different parts of the UK, different parts of England as well, have had different levels of how the virus has spread – the number of deaths has varied around the four nations but also within England as well, and parts of those four nations. Norfolk has been very low, Northern Ireland too – that’s why devolution has worked so well.
“I can only work on what I actually see in practice, and if I look through how we’ve dealt with coronavirus throughout the period [the devolved administrations] were part of the decisions we were making at Cobra, they were done together as the UK with the devolved authorities, their ministers were part of daily meetings – these things were being done as the UK.”
He added: “I’m saying we made decisions together as the UK, we also respected the devolved authorities’ rights as part of devolution to look at where they had these devolved powers to use them in the way that was right for their local areas.
“Going into lockdown, we all went into lockdown basically at the same time, as we’e come out there’s been that flexibility around the devolved areas to ease lockdown in a way that’s been right for each of those nations of the United Kingdom. I think that was the right thing to do.”
Boris Johnson on Thursday is to claim that the “sheer might” of the UK union benefited Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said she had no plans to meet with him.