UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called a COVID recovery summit to bring together leaders of the devolved Scottish and Welsh governments, following election results that have renewed calls for another independence referendum in Scotland.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon led pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) won a strong victory, falling short of a clear majority in the Scottish Parliament Holyrood by just one seat as the results from Thursday’s elections became clear on Sunday.
It led to Sturgeon declaring the vote as a mandate for a second independence referendum, the first held in 2014 which went against independence.
“Given the outcome of this election, there is simply no democratic justification whatsoever for Boris Johnson or anyone else seeking to block the right of the people of Scotland to choose our future,” Sturgeon said in her victory speech from Glasgow.
“It is the will of the country…If people in Scotland vote for a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament, no politician has got the right to stand in the way of that,” she said.
Johnson has consistently dismissed the notion of another referendum and is instead attempting to drive focus towards his "build back better" agenda for the entire United Kingdom in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I believe passionately that the interests of people across the UK and in particular the people of Scotland are best served when we work together. We have shown that through the vaccine roll-out,” Johnson wrote in a letter addressed to Sturgeon on Saturday, in a pre-emptive move as the results were becoming clear.
“I recommit the UK government to working with the Scottish government in this cooperative spirit,” he said, inviting the leader to a summit in the coming weeks to discuss “shared challenges”.
A similar letter has been issued to First Minister Mark Drakeford, whose Labour Party was re-elected in Wales with an impressive 30-seat win in the Welsh Senned – which is one short of an absolute majority but enough to form a minority government.
Drakeford’s cautious and measured approach in dealing with the coronavirus lockdown decisions at a devolved level are seen as the key factor behind his re-election.
“This really is a moment that the Prime Minister should seize to reset relationships across the United Kingdom, for a serious examination of the way in which we can create the machinery that will allow us to work together in the future,” said Drakeford, who welcomed the “extraordinary set of results”.
“Not an approach that thinks flying more union jacks at the tops of buildings, but proper, respectful relationships that recognise that sovereignty is now dispersed across four parliaments in which we choose to pool it for common purposes. That’s the sort of UK that I think will have the very best chance of surviving, because it will be a UK where people want to be here, rather than are instructed to be,” he said.