UK: Boris Johnson heads to Scotland amid independence calls

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to visit Scotland on Thursday as support grows for a second independence referendum in the country.

Scotland, which makes up the northernmost part of United Kingdom, voted against independence in 2014. But ties have strained since the 2016 Brexit vote to leave the European Union.

The majority of Scots voted to stay in the EU, setting it apart from the UK that as a whole voted to leave.

The coronavirus pandemic has also taken its toll on relations between the two neighbors.

The semi-autonomous administration has had a large say in dictating Scotland’s own response, often pitting it against central government in London.

What will Johnson do?

The prime minister will highlight the role his government played in providing COVID-19 tests, setting up vaccine centers and subsidizing those who are unable to go to work.

“The great benefits of cooperation across the whole of the UK have never been clearer than since the beginning of this pandemic,” he will say, according to his office.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the majority Scottish National Party, (SNP) on Wednesday questioned if reasons for visiting are “really essential” amid the pandemic.

She added it sets a bad example to the public.

Sturgeon is hoping a strong performance by her SNP in May elections for the country’s devolved Parliament would give her the mandate to hold a second referendum.

Scotland voted against independence by 55% to 45% in the 2014 referendum. But recent polls showing Scotland would vote to leave the union in any re-run.

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