BORIS Johnson has insisted he is “working very hard” with his Scottish Tory colleagues, despite their leader saying he is unfit to be Prime Minister.
Douglas Ross last month told the PM his position was no longer tenable in light of the row over lockdown parties in Downing Street, a stance backed by most Tory MSPs.
Mr Johnson will not be meeting Mr Ross on a rare visit to Scotland today.
However he said he was “working very hard with my colleagues in Scotland on our joint agenda of uniting and levelling up and delivering for the people of the whole UK”.
The PM was speaking in Rosyth as it was announced the Scottish and UK governments are to work together on a £52m plan for two “green freeports” north of the border.
The special economic zones offer tax breaks and lower tariffs for businesses, and are being promoted by the UK Government as part of its “levelling up” agenda.
Mr Johnson said: “I think we’re very proud collectively of what the UK Government has done at all levels to get us through Covid very effectively, so that we now have the fastest growing economy in the G7 last year and this year.
“Plus, we’re working together on great projects, which we’re able to do now such as the the freeports and such as investment in Rosyth.”
Mr Johnson insisted he was not allowed to reveal the location of the two freeports, but said they could “genuinely drive huge numbers of jobs”.
Douglas Chapman, the SNP MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, was frosty about Mr Johnson’s visit to the seat.
He said: “I was pleased to see the Prime Minister recognising the importance of the work being carried out at Rosyth during his visit on Monday.
“However, that’s frankly the only positive I can find from his trip to my constituency.
“He failed to mention the decaying nuclear submarines dumped nearby and ignored by successive governments for years.
“His empty words about ‘levelling up’ also fail to help those whose finances are being strained to breaking point.
“This visit was ultimately a reminder of how important it is for Scotland to break free from Westminster, and finally take control of its own future through independence.”
SNP Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, said the Prime Minister was “deeply unpopular” with Scots, insisting his visit should be part of a “farewell tour”.
READ MORE: Boris Johnson in Scotland: PM ‘hiding from the people’ amid partygate row
Mr Blackford told Sky News: “This is Prime Minister who is not going to meet his own Scottish Conservative leader, even the Scottish Conservatives want Boris Johnson to go.
“I hope this is his farewell tour, he is a man who is deeply unpopular up here.
“More than 75% of Scots think he should resign and I think people right up and down these islands recognise that this is a Prime Minister who no longer has moral authority.”
While there is speculation that Chancellor Rishi Sunak could be a potential successor to the Prime Minister, Mr Blackford argued it was more important for Scots to be given a choice on independence.
He insisted: “It’s not a choice about Boris Johnson or Rishi Sunak or anybody else, it’s about the choice of the people of Scotland to choose their own future.”
Cole-Hamilton comments on Prime Minister’s visit to Scotland
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Every minute Boris Johnson remains Prime Minister is an insult to all those who lost a loved one and stuck to the rules.
“The broken relationship between the Prime Minister and his own Scottish party is a sign of how dysfunctional the Conservative party has become. They are completely detached from the cost-of-living crisis that is hitting people and too distracted to offer a meaningful solution.
“I would urge all Scottish Conservative MPs to hand in letters to the 1922 Committee to trigger a confidence vote. They are the only ones with the power to do something about the moral vacuum that exists in Number 10.
“While the public made countless sacrifices and did all that was asked of them, the Prime Minister was more concerned with living it up in Number 10, than levelling up the UK.
“He is not fit for office and should return to London to offer his resignation to the Queen and his apologies to the entire UK.”
Scotland Office minister Iain Stewart, the MP for Milton Keyes South, told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “I think what the Prime Minister is doing is showing we are getting on with the job, we are setting out a comprehensive and bold vision of what we want the UK and Scottish economy to be.
“We’re investing massively, whether it’s in freeports, whether it’s in the levelling up agenda.”
Pressed on why no meeting has been scheduled with Mr Ross, Mr Stewart defended the Prime Minister, saying the two leaders are regularly in contact”.
The minister added: “When I go up and visit around Scotland, sometimes I meet with my MSP colleagues, sometimes I don’t.”