Boris Johnson ‘will spend billions of pounds improving road and rail links to Scotland to save the Union’ and see off threat of independence referendum as Nicola Sturgeon’s hopes of winning a majority are on a knife edge
- Boris Johnson plans to spend billions of pounds on infrastructure to save Union
- PM expected to implement plans in the wake of Thursday’s Holyrood elections
- Poll shows SNP heading for victory but winning majority could be on knife edge
- Fear an SNP majority will see Nicola Sturgeon immediately demand IndyRef2
Billions of pounds will be spent on improving road and rail links to Scotland under plans being put forward by Boris Johnson to strengthen the Union, it was claimed today.
The Prime Minister is said to be preparing to splash the cash on better infrastructure in a desperate bid to see off the threat of Scottish independence.
The Government is also looking at treating Scottish NHS patients on beds in England to deal with an operations backlog while UK diplomats in foreign capitals will be told to stress the case against independence.
The plans could also see a student exchange programme set up between the UK nations.
News of the PM’s plans, first reported in The Sunday Telegraph, came amid fears of a an SNP landslide victory at Thursday’s Holyrood election.
However, a new poll suggests that while Nicola Sturgeon’s party is on course for victory, her chances of winning a crucial majority appear to be on a knife edge.
Boris Johnson, pictured on a visit to a school in London on April 29, is said to be preparing to spend billion of pounds improving transport links to Scotland
The PM is hoping the spending will help to counter Nicola Sturgeon’s push for Scottish independence. The SNP leader is pictured in Perth on May 1
Winning a majority is seen as key because Ms Sturgeon believes it would give her a mandate to hold a second independence referendum.
Falling short of the benchmark would strengthen Mr Johnson’s hand and bolster his position of refusing to grant permission for a re-run of the 2014 vote.
Mr Johnson is due to chair a meeting attended by Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove, as well as the secretary of states for Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, when his Union plans will be finalised.
The proposals are then expected to be rolled out in the aftermath of the ‘Super Thursday’ elections.
There are concerns in Westminster that Ms Sturgeon will immediately demand an independence referendum should she secure a majority.
One senior Government source told The Sunday Telegraph that the result is likely to be ‘bloody awful’ in Scotland and ‘we are in a bare knuckle fight’.
There are hopes in Whitehall that Ms Sturgeon will fall short of a majority, potentially torpedoing her demands for a second border poll.
One minister told the newspaper: ‘If you have a combined Lib-Lab-Con vote of over 50 per cent, then that is very significant.’
A highly-anticipated ‘Union connectivity review’ conducted by former Network Rail boss Sir Peter Hendy is due to report by July.
The work will include a feasibility study on establishing a permanent tunnel or bridge connecting Scotland and Northern Ireland.
It came as a Panelbase survey for The Sunday Times suggested Mrs Sturgeon is on course for victory on Thursday but that whether she wins a majority could be tight.
The poll, conducted between April 28 and April 30 suggested the SNP could gain two seats on their 2016 tally, giving them an outright majority of just one.
Sir John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said the polling numbers suggested the SNP could end up with 65 seats, the Tories down three with 28, Labour down six with 18, the Lib Dems up one with six, the Greens up three with nine and the Alba Party with three.