Election results 2021: PM calls Covid recovery summit after SNP victory

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has invited the leaders of the devolved nations to a summit on how "Team UK" can recover from the pandemic.

Election results 2021: PM calls Covid recovery summit after SNP victory
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has invited the leaders

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has invited the leaders of the devolved nations to a summit on how "Team UK" can recover from the pandemic.

It follows the SNP's fourth Scottish Parliament election win in a row and Labour's win in the Welsh Parliament.

The SNP's Nicola Sturgeon said there could be "no democratic justification" for blocking an independence vote.

But Mr Johnson said talk of "ripping our country apart" would be "irresponsible and reckless".

The prime minister congratulated Ms Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford on their re-elections and invited them to a meeting "to discuss our shared challenges and how we can work together in the coming months and years to overcome them".

The PM rang Mr Drakeford on Saturday and plans to speak to Ms Sturgeon on Sunday.

In letters sent to the leaders and shared by No 10, Mr Johnson highlighted the Covid vaccine rollout as an example of "Team UK in action", with the UK procuring doses at scale, and he urged them to continue the "cooperative spirit".

He said the recovery would be "a difficult journey" but that "the broad shoulders of the UK" had already supported jobs and businesses throughout the crisis.

In tackling challenges such as lost learning in schools, NHS waiting lists and court backlogs, Mr Johnson said: "We need to show the same spirit of unity and cooperation that marked our fight against the pandemic."

"We will all have our own perspectives and ideas - and we will not always agree - but I am confident that by learning from each other we will be able to build back better, in the interests of the people we serve," he said.

The SNP fell one seat short of an overall majority in the Scottish parliament elections, securing 64 seats, but with eight Scottish Greens the final result still leaves Holyrood with a pro-independence majority.

Hailing her party's "historic and extraordinary" fourth election win, she said voters in Scotland had backed a "progressive, inclusive, outward-looking vision" but faced "many more years of right-wing Brexit-obsessed Tory governments that we don't vote for".

She said an independence referendum was "the will of the country".

"Given the outcome of this election, there is simply no democratic justification whatsoever for Boris Johnson or anyone else seeking to block the right of the people of Scotland to choose our future," she said.

Ms Sturgeon said any attempt to prevent it would "demonstrate conclusively that the UK is not a partnership of equals and that - astonishingly - Westminster no longer sees the UK as a voluntary union of nations".

Writing in Saturday's Daily Telegraph earlier on Saturday, Mr Johnson said "talking about ripping our country apart" with an independence referendum at a time when people wanted to recover from the coronavirus crisis would be "irresponsible and reckless".

Scotland held a vote on independence in 2014, billed as "once in a generation", in which just over 55% voted to remain part of the UK.

But after the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, Ms Sturgeon began pushing for another referendum on Scottish independence.

'Reset relationships'

The prime minister's letter to Mr Drakeford included the line: "We both share a belief in the enormous potential of our United Kingdom - both to be a force for good in the world and to be an engine of security and prosperity for its citizens here at home."

A similar invitation to the summit was being sent to Northern Ireland's first minister and deputy first minister, Mr Johnson said.

Mr Drakeford called on the prime minister to "reset relationships" with the devolved administrations, after Thursday's elections saw politics in Scotland and Wales further diverge from England.

He said that rather than "flying more Union Jacks at the tops of buildings", they needed to build "proper, respectful relationships" between four parliaments with their own sovereignty that could choose to work together for common purposes.

"That's the sort of UK that I think will have the very best chance of surviving, because it will be a UK where people want to be here, rather than are instructed to be," he said.

Labour retained power in Wales and the SNP extended its lead as Scotland's largest party, following Thursday's elections.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives made gains in England, adding 12 councils to their overall tally by the end of Saturday, plus an extra 239 councillors. There are still 11 of the 143 councils left to declare.

In comparison, Labour lost 301 councillors by the end of Saturday and seven councils - one of which was Durham, which had been in the party's control for more than a century.

Labour was more successful in the mayoral elections, being re-elected in every seat previously held, including London and Manchester, and gaining two from the Conservatives. Twelve of the 13 areas have been declared.

Following his party's success at the polls in England, the prime minister said that Tuesday's State Opening of Parliament would focus on "fulfilling the promises we have made to the British people".

He said the government would "look forward" past the pandemic and "will go further to unite and level up the country".

The Queen's Speech will also include the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

The proposal, which would give police in England and Wales greater powers, was shelved earlier this year following protests.