Europe

Boris Johnson: Scottish and Welsh ‘divergence’ on COVID-19 response ‘a pain’ for PM

Boris Johnson outlines 'importance' of coronavirus booster jabs

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The leaders of the UK’s devolved nations have taken noticeably different approaches to the pandemic. Wales and Scotland’s respective First Ministers, Mark Drakeford and Nicola Sturgeon, have both adopted more cautious measures to tackle the virus. Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Mr Johnson has ‒ at times ‒ been reluctant to bring in further curbs for England, citing the economic damage that would be caused by implementing stricter measures.

Both Scotland and Wales even slapped bans on non-essential travel to and from England earlier in the pandemic.

The three countries are once again diverging from one another in their COVID-19 responses, as the number of people testing positive for the virus increases across the UK.

Rhys ab Owen, a politician from Wales’ pro-independence Plaid Cymru party claimed to Express.co.uk that Wales and Scotland’s alternate plans for tackling the pandemic were “a pain” for Mr Johnson.

Mr Owen, who is a member of the Senedd – or Welsh Parliament – for South Wales Central, discussed the pandemic’s implications for the Welsh independence movement.

He said: “You’ve got Boris Johnson in Westminster, who is passionate about saving the Union.

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“But he sees the best way of saving the Union as by centralising power. More power in Westminster.”

Mr Owen said Mr Johnson “sees the divergence in what Wales and Scotland does with regards to stuff like the response to COVID-19 as a pain.”

Mr Drakeford, whose ruling Welsh Labour party won the May election, remains firmly against the idea of holding a referendum on Welsh independence.

However, the First Minister has called for Wales to receive further devolved powers from Westminster.

Mr Owen said Welsh Labour’s desire for more control amid the pandemic put it on a collision course with the Tories in Westminster.

He said: “You can see the tension there, with the Labour Party in Wales wanting more power and the Conservative Party in Westminster definitely not going to give more power and actually trying to claw power back.

“So, you could foresee the strong possibility of some prominent people within the Labour Party actually making that final leap then from a federal Britain, saying ‘well actually we can’t do this, this is not possible because of various issues’.

“The logical step then is independence, so you can see then the Labour Party playing a role in that within Wales.”

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Wales, England and Scotland are currently looking at different ways of tackling their rising COVID-19 case rates.

Wales hit a record high on Tuesday, with 719.9 cases of the virus per 100,000 people over the last seven days.

Ministers there are now weighing up whether to extend the use of COVID-19 passes for a wider range of venues, a move backed by Plaid Cymru.

In Scotland, where cases are also rising, Ms Sturgeon has said COVID-19 restrictions will not be tightened for the time being.

However, on Tuesday the First Minister admitted that some of the country’s NHS hospitals are currently “at capacity”.

Amid England’s rising infection rates, calls have grown for the Government to adopt its so-called COVID-19 ‘Plan B’.

The package of measures, which involves the mandatory use of face masks and COVID-19 passports, aims to avoid “unsustainable pressure” on the NHS.

The NHS Confederation and the British Medical Association have backed bringing in tighter restrictions.

However, the Government has so far opposed using Plan B, saying that the data does not currently show a need for more stringent health measures.
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