BORIS Johnson is set to visit Scotland this week amid a constitutional row over the Scottish Government’s plan for a second Scottish independence referendum, something Downing St made clear was not within Holyrood’s powers.

The Prime Minister is expected to venture north of the border on Thursday with a Covid-related visit to a Central Belt location, UK Government and Conservative Party sources confirmed.

After the SNP’s weekend announcement - that if it won the May Holyrood poll, it would seek to hold Indyref2 once the pandemic is over – Mr Johnson was keen to stress that what all governments should be focused on at present was “saving lives and livelihoods”. Indeed, it was emphasised to The Herald that his visit to Scotland was not party political but part of a regular round of visits about progress the UK was making against the pandemic.

Pressed on the Scottish Government’s plan, the PM said: “The whole of the UK is going through a pandemic. What people want to see is everybody focusing on beating that pandemic, which we are, rolling out the vaccine and getting ready to bounce back from that pandemic and have the strongest possible recovery; that’s the priority for the whole of the United Kingdom.

“People also can see everywhere in the UK the visible benefits of our wonderful Union; a vaccine programme that has been rolled out by a National Health Service, a vaccine that was developed in labs in Oxford and is being administered by the British Army. So, the strengths and advantages of the Union speak for themselves,” he told Sky News.

Later, his spokesman, asked if the Scottish Government’s proposal on Indyref2 posed an existential threat to the Union, replied: “The PM would say now more than ever the people of the UK want to see the Government and the devolved administrations working together to protect lives and livelihoods across our country.

“We would point to the fact there is no doubt the Union has been critical in the development, procurement and production and administration of the vaccine programme. I would point to measures such as the furlough as[an example of] the support we have provided to everyone in the UK to protect their lives and livelihoods.”

Asked if the UK Government would seek to challenge in the courts any referendum organised by Edinburgh, he said: “I would point to what the PM has said previously, that Scotland had a referendum on this issue and the people of Scotland voted to stay a part of the UK. The PM’s focus is on defeating coronavirus as the Government’s top priority and supporting jobs and levelling up across the country.”

Pressed on whether Mr Johnson agreed with Douglas Ross that the only legal referendum would be one granted through a Section 30 Order by Westminster, the spokesman said: “As you know, Section 30 is a reserved matter and holding an independence referendum does go beyond the powers of the Scottish Parliament. The PM has always and repeatedly said and been clear the Scottish people have had a vote on this issue and decided to remain a part of the UK.”

Asked if he was saying that whatever happened in Holyrood election in May, Mr Johnson would not grant a Section 30 Order, he replied: “Again, the PM has been clear the Scottish people have already had a referendum on this matter and they voted to remain part of the UK.”