BORIS Johnson’s “contempt” for Scotland is placing the Union in jeopardy and will drive up support for independence, according to Henry McLeish.

He spoke out after the Prime Minister told MPs there was no border between England and Scotland and dismissed as a possible move by Nicola Sturgeon to quarantine visitors from the rest of the UK as ‘shameful” – even if Covid-19 levels rise.

The former first minister described the border comment as the “most provocative” to be made to Scots in 20 years adding it revealed the true belief that the Conservative

Government had about Scotland and devolution.

He added Johnson’s brand of Unionism and “divisive” style of government would result in Scots who had never contemplated independence becoming alienated from Westminster and moving towards the SNP and Yes cause.

“Boris Johnson’s comment that there is no border was a calculated move and is probably the most divisive and provocative statement made about the Union in the last 20 years,” McLeish told The National.

“For the first time it reveals what the Conservative Government thinks of devolution. It has treated Wales and Scotland with contempt.”

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He added: “They don’t take devolution seriously, they don’t believe in four nation politics. That is why I believe the dial will shift [on independence].

“It didn’t move a great deal after Brexit but what Johnson has added is an irritant.

“The danger for me is that he moves the debate beyond the Bravehearts and traditional nationalists to other Scots who are not nationalists, but may be sick and tired of the government he is putting forward.

“I would like to see Scotland remain in the Union but not at any price. Johnson may be unintentionally driving people towards independence who are not natural supporters of either the SNP or independence.”

“Johnson and Rees-Mogg are not saving the Union, they are jeopardising the Union by encouraging people to be alienated from Westminster and start thinking positively about independence.”

McLeish spoke out at the end of a week which saw increased tensions between the UK and Scottish Governments over the handling of the pandemic.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had indicated she will consider introducing quarantine for people travelling into Scotland if there is a surge in England and Wales.

She insisted any such move would be to protect public health in Scotland and limit the spread of any virus outbreaks.

But in response to a question from Scots Tory MP Andrew Bowie at Prime Minister’s Questions that the quarantining of visitors from across the rest of the UK could have a negative impact on the tourism sector, Johnson said: “I find the suggestion absolutely astonishing and shameful.

“There have been no discussions with the Scottish administration about that, but I point out to my honourable friend what he knows very well – there is no such thing as a border between England and Scotland.”

McLeish said Johnson was using constitutional politics to distract from his failure in handling the coronavirus pandemic which has led to the deaths of more than 44,000 people in the UK and that he was in no position to criticise the Scottish Government.

“Scotland has moved through the pandemic relatively successfully. We don’t know what’s ahead but a reasonable job has been done.

“It is then shocking in view of Johnson’s performance on the pandemic that he should be lecturing to anyone else, especially Wales and Scotland who have been navigating the pandemic much better than the Conservatives,” he said.

“Because of Johnson’s failure to rise to the challenge of the pandemic, this is now a government of distraction. He wants to pick a fight with Scotland as it is a distraction.”