UK: PM moves political battleground to Scotland

Boris Johnson is to move the political battleground to Scotland when he visits Aberdeenshire to announce additional funding for Scottish farmers.

The trip marks the end of a bruising week in which the PM lost Commons votes on his general election plan and a bill designed to stop a no-deal Brexit.

The SNP said the motion to hold an early poll was a plot to make sure the UK left the EU without a deal.

The prime minister’s trip will include a visit to the Queen’s Balmoral estate.

He will also visit a farm, days after the government revealed a £160m funding package for Scottish farmers.

The move settled a long-running row over the distribution of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy payments across the UK.

And Mr Johnson will use his visit to Scotland to announce an additional £51.4m for Scottish farmers over the next two years.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson says the extra funding would “correct an injustice”, but also help Scottish farmers “secure their future”

But Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, insisted the money should have been given to farmers and crofters in Scotland in 2016.

“Three years too late the case is coming to Scotland,” he said.

The prime minister – who lost his majority in the House of Commons this week – also used his article in the Telegraph to vow to prevent the break-up of the UK.

“I find it hard to comprehend why anyone would wish to break apart a successful country, tear the cross of St Andrew out of the Union Flag and draw an international frontier across our island,” he writes.

Scotland’s first minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon on Thursday said her party would pledge to oppose Brexit and insist on “Scotland having the right to choose our own future”.

Mr Johnson has said he would “rather be dead in a ditch than delay Brexit”, but has declined to say whether he would resign if a postponement – which he has repeatedly ruled out – had to happen.

On a visit to Glasgow on Thursday, former prime minister Sir John Major criticised Mr Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament.

The ex-Tory leader accused the Government of operating via “bluster and threat in a climate of aggressive bullying” and urged Mr Johnson to ditch his “overmighty advisers”

The prime minister’s younger brother, Jo Johnson, resigned as a minister and MP on Thursday, saying he had been “torn between family loyalty and the national interest”.

Boris Johnson and the Queen
Image captionBoris Johnson was received by the Queen in July

The prime minister told the BBC he was “very sad to see the loss of Jo”, as well as of the group of 21 rebel Tory MPs who were expelled from the party earlier this week.

Mr Johnson is expected to cut short his visit to the monarch’s summer residence – a traditional prime ministerial trip each summer – because he needs to concentrate on the Brexit crisis.

Rather than the usual weekend-long visit, he and his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, are likely to return to London on Saturday.

Funding redistribution

The funding was announced as the UK government confirmed it would work to ensure cash for farmers was fairly allocated across the whole of the UK, and that the industry will be ready for a “prosperous future” outside the EU.

Those are key recommendations from Lord Bew’s newly-published review of farm funding.

NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick described the money as being the “largest funding uplift for the sector in recent memory”.

But the SNP’s Stewart Stevenson said Mr Johnson was like a “thief returning to the scene of a crime”.

Labour’s Lesley Laird, the shadow Scottish secretary, said the prime minister was “no friend” of Scottish agriculture.

“Boris Johnson’s disastrous plan for a no-deal Brexit will be calamitous for Scottish farming,” she added.

Legal rulings

While Mr Johnson travels north of the border on Friday, judges across the UK will rule on whether he broke the law by proroguing Parliament.

Scotland’s highest civil court released documents which suggest he agreed to suspend Parliament two weeks before making it public.

Judges in Edinburgh have been hearing an appeal by a group of MPs and peers who want them to overturn a ruling that Mr Johnson had not broken the law.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett and two other judges at the High Court in London have also been urged to find that Mr Johnson’s 28 August advice to the Queen was an “unlawful abuse of power”.


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