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Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been at odds with Westminster over the handling of COVID-19 north and south of the border. Boris Johnson has started easing lockdown restrictions in England and has ditched the “stay at home” slogan from Government messaging, which has remained in place in Scotland. Kenny MacAskill, a former Holyrood justice secretary who is now an MP, claimed the coronavirus crisis has shown Prime Minister Boris Johnson to be “utterly hapless”.
He even contrasted this with what he claimed has been a “virtually flawless” performance from SNP Nicola Sturgeon so far during the outbreak of the virus.
But Mr MacAskill argued the virus outbreak could further the SNP’s calls for Scottish independence, which the party had pushed heavily before the outbreak began.
He suggested the current crisis could give the SNP the opportunity to pursue a “more radical agenda that’s wanted by the wider membership”.
The SNP MP also claimed the Scottish public will be looking for a “better way” forward as opposed to being part of the UK – once they emerge from the current pandemic.
Commenting directly on the Prime Minister, Mr MacAskill said: “A man who cannot even safely look after his own country can’t restrict the forward march of another. The road to independence is open.”
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack argued the county has benefited from the “financial strength” of the UK Treasury during the coronavirus crisis.
He said: “We’re a very powerful economic machine in the UK and I know it is a bit of a unionist message, and I am not shying away from that, I am not embarrassed to say it.
“But because Scotland is part of the United Kingdom we have benefited enormously from that financial strength of the Treasury.”
However, Mr MacAskill claimed the “hope, if not expectation, of leading unionists was that the Bank of England’s unlimited printing of money would show the bounty of being British and the utter dependency of Scotland” had not been the case.
He added: “Instead more and more it’s showing up the incompetence of the UK Government and that actually Scotland can most certainly do better.
“Folk are deciding that there’s got to be a better way and there lies the difficulty for the union.
“With the Tories firmly in charge there’s little sign of change or even moderation. It’s full on for Brexit and ever closer links with the USA.
“The demands that there has to be a better way, and indeed a diverging way, from the UK path are only going to increase.”
The latest push for Scottish independence comes as senior SNP figures draw up plans for a second referendum, which they are planning to unveil when the coronavirus crisis ends.
Scotland’s ruling party are eyeing plans ahead of the Holyrood election next year, where they hope to strengthen their majority in the country’s parliament and their mandate for independence.
Alyn Smith, an MP and the SNP’s policy development convener, has been in contact with around 30 local party branches to discuss plans, such as how a universal basic income would work in an independent Scotland, according to The Times.
The party’s Social Justice and Fairness Commission is also looking at policy plans ahead of the Holyrood election and a potential independence prospectus.
Mr Smith defended the plans by insisting it was “legitimate” to have discussions about Scottish independence.
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