U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s weekend address to the nation on his coronavirus exit plan did “cause some confusion” for people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack said Thursday.
Speaking to the House of Commons Scottish affairs committee, Jack said the change in messaging from “stay at home” to “stay alert” that was announced on television by Johnson on Sunday evening “did only apply to England.”
Jack added: “That’s why the press over the next couple of days did seek to clear things up. Talking about the broadcast on the Sunday evening, we have all accepted that that could have been clearer.”
Johnson faced widespread criticized following the speech for announcing new guidance that only applied in England, despite his position as U.K. prime minister. The authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland decided not to relax lockdown measures at the same pace as England.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Sunday attacked Johnson’s change in messaging, both the substance of the new guidance and because she said she found out via the press.
“For Scotland right now, given the fragility of the progress we have made, given the critical point we are at, it would be catastrophic for me to drop the ‘stay at home’ message, which is why I am not prepared to do it … particularly in favor of a message that is vague and imprecise,” she said on Sunday ahead of Johnson’s speech after the Westminster government’s new slogan was leaked to the Telegraph.
The Scottish secretary also said he had previously advocated the government not diverge by nation in easing lockdown restrictions, saying he suggested “that we move at the pace of the slowest.” When asked to clarify whether he had advised the U.K government to wait until the Scottish administration was happy, Jack said he had “questioned the scientists by asking a simple question” on whether to move together with devolved nations or to diverge regionally.