Boris Johnson visits Scotland to promote the union but Scots increasingly eye independence

Boris Johnson is visiting Scotland claiming the “sheer might of our union” has strengthened the fight against coronavirus north of the border.

In a trip billed as kick-starting a campaign to save the union, he will tell Scots that if they stick with Britain they will continue to benefit from huge economic support.

But the prime minister’s first visit to Scotland since last December’s election comes as opinion polls suggest a surge in support for independence, with backing for separation now at 54%.

He is pledging £50m to Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, to help develop the islands’ economic potential, with handouts for space technology and renewable energy.

And during his visit, the PM is also meeting members of the military based in Scotland – and their families – to thank them for their ongoing work in the coronavirus response.

At this week’s cabinet meeting, Mr Johnson ordered his ministers to make more visits to Scotland and boost their low public profiles there in the fight against independence.

But the PM’s own visit has been derided by senior Scottish National Party figures, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who turned 50 on Sunday, joking after the latest poll: “Nice of Boris to send me a birthday pressie.”

Speaking ahead of his visit, Mr Johnson said: “When I stood on the steps of Downing Street one year ago, I pledged to be a prime minister for every corner of the United Kingdom.

“Whether you are from East Kilbride or Dumfries, Motherwell or Paisley, I promised to level up across Britain and close the opportunity gap.

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