BORIS Johnson immediately sprang to life.

"I knew you were going to ask that!" he said. "And I'm prepared for that question – because I haven't."

The Prime Minister and self-styled Minister for the Union had just been asked why he appears to hide from Scottish voters during his trips north of the Border.

This was, after all, his fifth visit to Scotland since securing the keys to Number 10, and the second time journalists have quizzed him from within a secure military base. 

Previous trips have taken him to Faslane, a rural farm in Aberdeenshire and a remote whisky distillery near Elgin.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson denies politicising coronavirus to boost the Union

This time he was at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, where a small group of pro-independence activists were gathered outside as journalists arrived to be bussed into the airfield. 

One stuck his finger up as the bus passed.

But speaking to the media in the officers' mess, Barbed Wire Boris – as one hack earlier dubbed him due to his fondness for secure facilities – dismissed any suggestion he is hiding from ordinary Scots.

Earlier in the day he had been in Orkney, where he spoke to entrepreneurs, businesses and was snapped holding two giant crabs.

"I've met crab fishermen, and I've met people working in cheese making – fantastic, I've just seen more cheeses, bigger cheeses, colossal cheeses in Orkney," he said.

"I also went to this wonderful world of Baxters soup, and there I met loads of people and I want to tell you, they all seemed in a very good mood.

READ MORE: Sturgeon attacks Johnson for 'crowing' about the Union amid Covid deaths

"Were they members of the public? Yes they were, and they were people who were going to see the Baxters soup village, and I thoroughly recommend you take a trip to see Baxters soup village – I'm sure you've been many times. It is a fantastic place."

His response had echoes of his visit to Roseisle distillery in November, when he insisted he had met voters in Scotland "loads of times" but failed to give examples of where and when.

Memorably, he had turned to one journalist and added: "You're a voter, aren't you?"

The Prime Minister's latest trip to Scotland – the first since the General Election – comes amid rising support for independence and impressive approval ratings for Nicola Sturgeon. 

Mr Johnson's ratings are not so impressive, and there is concern in Downing Street over the future of the UK.

The eminent historian Sir Tom Devine, who supports independence, told the BBC this week that this is the "first time since the demise of Margaret Thatcher that there has been another UK prime minister who is as equally disliked in Scotland".

In fact, he said, there is a "degree of contempt" for Mr Johnson that Mrs Thatcher never faced.

At RAF Lossiemouth, the Prime Minister said the coronavirus pandemic has shown the strength of the Union.

"What came home to me today is how we as one country can bounce back stronger together, through growth deals and through ensuring we get through a crisis that is not only medical but also, I'm afraid, economic," he said. 

He emphasised the speed in which the Treasury deployed the furlough scheme to protect jobs and the extent of its financial support, as well as the role of the armed forces. 

Earlier, he 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".

During her regular coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon had accused him of "crowing" about the Union during a pandemic. 

The Prime Minister denied this. 

However, he appeared reluctant to criticise Ms Sturgeon or the Scottish Government during his Q&A with journalists. 

Asked if Scotland's economy could lag behind because of its slower route out of lockdown, he replied: "I'm here to talk about the ways in which we're doing things as one UK through the Union of the UK.

HeraldScotland:

"Is this a political point? It's not remotely a political point. I just happen to think that's the best way to do things and I think it's a great thing for our country."

When you strip away some of the rhetoric, he said, the UK is dealing with the crisis in a way that is "very uniform across the whole of the country and we’re going to get through it together".

READ MORE: Boris Johnson's visit to Scotland - in pictures

But why does he reckon Scots think Ms Sturgeon's handling of the crisis has been so much better than his?

"Let me put it this way," Mr Johnson said. 

"I think that whatever the superficial political differences, which may have played one way or the other, and the differences in presentation, which may have played one way or the other, the reality is that this country is tackling the coronavirus crisis – has done and will do – with much more that unites us than divides us.

"And that is what is going to continue to be our approach."