HomeEuropeUK’s coronavirus response makes case for Scotland to stay, says health secretary

UK’s coronavirus response makes case for Scotland to stay, says health secretary

Britain’s health secretary used a daily coronavirus briefing to launch a fresh version of an old argument: that the U.K. is “stronger together.”

Speaking Monday in the wake of a 20th consecutive poll pointing toward a “Yes” lead in any prospective referendum on Scottish independence, Matt Hancock said stretched paramedics made the case for Scotland’s place in the U.K.

The Scottish Ambulance Service appealed for extra help over the weekend after being pushed to crisis point — with Hancock pointing out that ambulance services from across the wider Union “stepped up to help.”

“Our health systems across the U.K. routinely work closely together offering support when it’s needed,” he said. “From vaccinations to ambulance services, we are stronger together, and the U.K. is stronger together in the fight against the pandemic.”

Asked later about the rate of vaccinations in Scotland, Hancock said the British jabs program makes the case for the U.K. as “one union that can pull together when things get difficult.”

“This U.K. vaccine, delivered by Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish colleagues in the NHS as well as across England, that is a real example of this country firing on all cylinders,” he said. “If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we all rely on each other and work better as one United Kingdom.”

Hancock’s line on the union comes a day after the Sunday Times reported the government would launch a push to “persuade Scots of the benefits” of staying in the U.K. The report indicated that the vaccine rollout and other U.K. government COVID measures would be crucial elements of the argument.

In response to Hancock’s statement, Scottish government minister Roseanna Cunningham, of the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), accused Hancock of using the government press conference — broadcast live on the BBC — to score political points.

“At Westminster COVID briefing just there, Matt Hancock chose to make overtly political statements about the union,” she tweeted. “Cannot imagine the fury if [Scottish First Minister] Nicola Sturgeon chose to do the same thing.”

On Monday former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued his own plea for politicians to try and counter Scottish independence, warning Britain faced the choice “between a reformed state and a failed state.”

Brown is reported to have held talks with the Conservative government’s Cabinet Minister Michael Gove, as pro-unionists consider how to respond to rising support for an independent Scotland.

Polls suggest elections to the Scottish Parliament later this year will hand a further boost to the SNP, a move that would bolster the party’s long-running demand for a fresh independence referendum after defeat in 2014.

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