By Bill Heaney
Prime Minister Boris Johnston was shaken but not stirred by a question from SNP leader Ian Blackford in the House of Commons yesterday.
Mr Blackford told MPs: “This morning, The Herald newspaper revealed that, in the middle of a pandemic, Tory Ministers secretly directed funds from an emergency covid contract to carry out polling on the Union.
“This evidence was uncovered in official documents submitted to the High Court, so the Prime Minister would be well advised to be very careful in his answer to this question.
“And it is a very simple question: did the UK Government use a £560,000 emergency covid contract to conduct constitutional campaigning on the Union?”
The Prime Minister replied that he knew nothing of the matter.
He said: “I am afraid I am not aware of the contract, but what I can tell him is that I think that the Union, and the benefits of the Union, have been incalculable throughout the covid pandemic.
“For the vaccine roll-out, vaccines have been pioneered in Scotland, brewed in Oxford, bottled in Wales and rolled out throughout the UK. I think it is a tribute to the Union that Ian Blackford seeks to undermine.”
Ian Blackford hit back: “The Prime Minister has just demonstrated, not for the first time, that he has not got a clue. The answer to the question is yes.
“Whether it is redecorating the Downing Street flat or siphoning off covid funds for political campaigning, the pattern is clear: the Tories simply can’t be trusted.
“Let us be very clear as to what happened here: these emergency covid contracts were supposed to be used for things like personal protective equipment for our brave doctors and for nurses fighting covid. “Instead, during the height of this deadly pandemic, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster used these emergency contracts to commission political research on—and I quote— ‘attitudes to the UK Union’.
“What is worse, he handed these lucrative contracts to long-term friends and former employees. In essence, this was a UK Government contract that sanctioned corrupt campaigning.
“If the Prime Minister has even a shred of credibility, will he now commit to a full public inquiry on this gross misuse of public funds?”
However, the Prime Minister, ABOVE LEFT, told him: “I cannot think of a better use of public funds than making sure that the whole of the UK fights the covid pandemic together, and that is what we are doing.
“Thanks to the UK Treasury, we were able to spend £407 billion supporting jobs and families in Scotland.
“We were able to use the British Army to send vaccines throughout the whole of the UK. I believe that the story of this last two years has shown the incalculable value of our Union and the strength of our Union, and that we are better together.”
Top picture: SNP leader Ian Blackford speaking in the House of Commons.