World news – Welsh and Scottish leaders: Johnson hasn’t talked to us for months


The first ministers of Wales and Scotland have attacked Boris Johnson for failing to speak to them directly about the possibility of a new national lockdown in England.

Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, said there was a “vacancy” at the heart of the UK government and argued his country’s porous border with England made it crucial for the prime minister to communicate directly with him regularly.

The Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, backed Drakeford, saying the UK was at “the most critical point of decision-making” since March, and calling for a Cobra meeting involving the heads of all four nations to be convened immediately.

Keir Starmer echoed the demand. The Labour leader said: “There is mounting concern about whether we have got the virus sufficiently under control. This is the time for swift, decisive national action. We cannot afford to be too slow. That’s why I’m asking the prime minister to convene a Cobra meeting and to update the country on the measures the government is taking to keep the virus under control, including to fix testing.

“The British public want to know what the situation is and what the government is going to do about it.”

There is growing frustration in the Welsh and Scottish governments at a lack of direct communication from Johnson. Drakeford said he had only spoken to the prime minister once since the end of May, while Sturgeon said she could not remember the last time she talked to him.

At a press conference on Friday, Drakeford said there were lockdowns in north-west England, close to the Welsh border, and “speculation” of a “circuit-breaking” lockdown across England but he had had no recent direct communication from the prime minister.

“This is simply unacceptable to anyone who believes that we ought to be facing the coronavirus crisis together,” Drakeford said. “We need a regular, reliable rhythm of engagement: a reliable meeting even once a week would be a start.

“I make this argument not because we should all do the same things, but because being round the same table allows each of us to make the best decisions for the nations we represent.

“There is a vacancy at the heart of the United Kingdom, and it needs urgently to be filled, so we can talk to each other, share information, pool ideas and demonstrate a determination that the whole of the country can face these challenges together at this most difficult time.”

Sturgeon called for an immediate Cobra meeting, warning that politicians needed to act “quickly, decisively, early” to prevent the virus getting out of control again.

Speaking at her daily briefing, she said: “I want to give the nation advance notice that the coming days are likely to see some hard but necessary decisions.

“This weekend is a critical moment for us to take decisions about the additional steps we need … I do want to have four-nations discussions around this, I have asked the prime minister to convene a Cobra, we will ideally align as much as possible.

“But if there are things that I think, based on my data and advice, are essential in Scotland, I am not going to hold back. I hope we will have discussions over the weekend and try to come to a shared position on the steps that are necessary.”

She underlined that she was not talking about a full lockdown but about further measures to avoid such severe restrictions again and allowing Scotland to keep schools open. Sturgeon also cautioned against non-essential overseas travel and travel to parts of the north of England under tougher restrictions.

Asked about Drakeford’s comments, Sturgeon said she could not remember the last time she had spoken to the prime minister directly, “which maybe tells its own story”.

She added: “Mark Drakeford is not saying anything that is not correct. It would be very helpful to have a PM-led, four nations Cobra-type discussion over this weekend.”


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