FM tells Sunak she will honour independence call
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in a phone call last night that she intends to deliver independence to Scotland.
She expressed hope that they would build a “constructive working relationship” built on “mutual respect”, a clear reminder to Mr Sunak that she would oppose his apparent desire to rein in the Scottish Government’s powers.
Ms Sturgeon said he should address the “pressure and pain” resulting from inflation and other economic pressures, and warned him against making it worse with a further wave of austerity.
In the call, at about 10pm, Mr Sunak “emphasised our duty to work closely together to respond to the shared challenges we face”.
The exchange of views, on Mr Sunak’s first day in the job, contrasts with the absence of contact between Ms Sturgeon and his predecessor Liz Truss, apart from “an exchange or two” at events following the death of the Queen.
The First Minister is also thought to have had a phone call with David Cameron on his first day in post and with Theresa May within a few days. During the Tory leadership campaign Ms Truss accused the First Minister of being an “attention seeker” and said “the best thing to do with Nicola Sturgeon is ignore her.”
However, despite declaring a need for the two government heads to work together, Ms Sturgeon has made it clear that her opposition to Westminster control extends to deep disdain for the Conservative Party, stating in a recent TV interview: “I detest the Tories”.
She was criticised for using such aggressive language by those who felt it was disrespectful and unbecoming of a country’s leader.
Ms Sturgeon has called for a general election, saying Mr Sunak has no mandate to govern, but the Scottish Tories accused her of being a hypocrite, given that she ruled for 18 months as First Minister after succeeding Alex Salmond and did not call an election.
Last night’s phone call between Mr Sunak and Ms Sturgeon was among a round of calls the new Prime Minister made with world leaders, including President Zelensky of Ukraine, who invited him to Kyiv, and US President Joe Biden who pronounced his name as ‘Rashee Sanook’ in his congratulatory speech.
Commenting on last night’s talks a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The First Minister and the Prime Minister had a brief, introductory call this evening. The First Minister congratulated the Prime Minister on his appointment and wished him well.
“She expressed her hope that political differences notwithstanding, they would build a constructive working relationship.
“She made clear that the Scottish Government would do everything possible to establish such a constructive relationship but stressed that this must be built on mutual respect.
“The First Minister also expressed the strong view that the UK Government should address the pressure and pain being felt by people and businesses as a result of inflation and other economic pressures, and should not exacerbate that with a further wave of austerity.
“She welcomed the Prime Minister’s assurance of engagement with the devolved Governments ahead of the Chancellor’s forthcoming budget statement.
“Finally, the First Minister made clear her intention to honour the mandate the Scottish Government received from the people of Scotland at the last election.”
Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said the new Prime Minister was “feart” of voters after he ruled out a general election. Mr Sunak will face Mr Blackford in the Commons today during his first Prime Minister’s Questions.
Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Scottish LibDem leader, called Alister Jack “the great survivor” after his reappointment as Scottish Secretary and accused him of “keeping his head down” during the political crisis of the past few months.
The Dumfries & Galloway MP was appointed by Boris Johnson in 2019. He refused to say whether he backed either Mr Sunak or Ms Truss in the Tory leadership.