BORIS Johnson will seek to shore up the Union in the face of rising support for independence as he visits Scotland today for the first time since the general election.

The Prime Minister said the last few months "have shown exactly why the historic and heartfelt bond that ties the four nations of our country together is so important".

It came as a new report warned the coronavirus pandemic has “profoundly affected” relations between London and the devolved governments.

Westminster's Scottish Affairs Committee said the already-strained relationship between the UK Government and Scotland has been put under further stress by the crisis.

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Mr Johnson's visit to Scotland – his first since November – comes as he marks one year as Prime Minister and follows a recent poll which put support for independence on 54 per cent.

The SNP is also on course for a landslide victory at next year's Holyrood election.

Mr Johnson has repeatedly ruled out agreeing to a second independence referendum, but there are concerns in Downing Street over rising support for independence and Nicola Sturgeon's popularity.

During his visit north the Prime Minister will meet with businesses hit by the pandemic, those working in green energy, and military personnel to thank them for their efforts.

He has pledged £50 million for Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles to develop the economy of the islands as part of a growth deal.

The Scottish Government said it will invest the same amount in the islands, meaning every area in Scotland will now receive funding from the joint UK and Scottish government initiatives.

Speaking ahead of his visit, Mr Johnson reiterated his message that the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the "sheer might" of the Union.

Downing Street said the UK Treasury has protected more than 900,000 jobs and granted thousands of businesses loans, while the armed forces have played a crucial role in airlifting critically ill patients from remote communities, helping to convert temporary hospitals and running mobile testing sites.

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It said the Department of Health and Social Care has procured millions of pieces of PPE to keep Scottish frontline workers safe.

This is on top of the £4.6 billion the Scottish Government has been allocated to help tackle coronavirus, Downing Street said.

Mr Johnson said: “When I stood on the steps of Downing Street one year ago, I pledged to be a Prime Minister for every corner of the United Kingdom.

"Whether you are from East Kilbride or Dumfries, Motherwell or Paisley, I promised to level up across Britain and close the opportunity gap.

“The last six months have shown exactly why the historic and heartfelt bond that ties the four nations of our country together is so important and the sheer might of our union has been proven once again.

“In Scotland, the UK’s magnificent armed forces have been on the ground doing vital work to support the NHS, from setting up and running mobile testing sites to airlifting critically ill patients to hospitals from some of Scotland’s most remote communities.

"And the UK Treasury stepped in to save the jobs of a third of Scotland’s entire workforce and kept the wolves at bay for tens of thousands of Scottish businesses.

“More than ever, this shows what we can achieve when we stand together, as one United Kingdom."

Yesterday, Ms Sturgeon confirmed she had no plans to meet Mr Johnson, but said she is "always happy to meet the Prime Minister if he wants to do so."

The First Minister said she would ask "anybody in Scotland, the Prime Minister included, to make sure they follow" the Scottish Government's coronavirus advice, adding: "I’m sure he would do that anyway."

In a new report, MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee said that while the “four nations approach” to tackling the virus was coherent during the initial stages, it diverged “almost by accident” as lockdown eased.

Chairman of the committee, SNP MP Pete Wishart, also criticised Westminster officials for failing to say when policies were for England only, or when they were UK-wide.

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He said: “Simple mistakes of not making clear which nations in which new policies apply must not be made again

“The overlapping responsibilities of policy areas operated by Westminster and Holyrood in the pandemic response make intergovernmental communication absolutely critical in effectively controlling the spread of the virus.

“This was the cornerstone of the ‘four-nation’ approach that served so effectively at the start of the crisis.

“But as the focus has shifted from containment to opening-up the economy we are concerned that the structures that made this possible have stopped."