BORIS Johnson has told Nicola Sturgeon and other UK leaders that their views on the constitution should not come before the pandemic recovery.

At a meeting of the four nations, dubbed a 'Team UK summit', Mr Johnson is said to have emphasised the need for a joined-up approach to the pandemic, while Michael Gove stressed that working together would help all of the country 'emerge stronger' after the crisis has passed. 

However in a statement following the session this afternoon, Nicola Sturgeon said the UK Government’s attempts to “undermine devolution” “must end”, and said the recovery had to be done as a “partnership of equals”.

The session took place virtually lasting for several hours, with attendees including John Swinney and Kate Forbes from the Scottish Government; the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford and his economy minister Vaughan Gething; Northern Ireland's departing First Minister Arlene Foster, deputy Northern Irish FM Michelle O'Neill and junior minister Gordon Lyons.

From the UK Government, Mr Johnson and Mr Gove were joined by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, Welsh Secretary Simon Hart and Northern Irish Secretary Brandon Lewis.

Rishi Sunak told those in attendance that the Treasury had provided support worth around £352bn last year and this year, and described how the 'sacrifices of the British people' combined with the support and the vaccine programme had set the groundwork for recovery. He also said there were reasons for 'cautious optimism'.

Ms Sturgeon said she had raised the issue of the furlough scheme being extended, with UK Government ministers saying publicly they were open minded about the prospect depending on how the economy looks by September, when it is currently due to end. 

Summing up the meeting, the Prime Minister emphasised the need to have further similar meetings to provide 'ongoing engagement' between the UK Government and devolved authorities.

Following the session, Ms Sturgeon said the recovery from the pandemic had to be done "as a partnership of equals".

She said: “We are of course willing to work together on recovery from the pandemic, but the UK Government needs to listen and act on key Scottish Government concerns.

“Because of the powers that rest in Westminster the decisions the UK Government takes have a major impact on the kind of fair recovery we are trying to build in Scotland.”

Ms Sturgeon said she asked for assurances there would be “no return to the cruel and damaging austerity of the past” and for furlough and the universal credit uplift to be extended.

She said: “The proof of the worth of this meeting depends on whether the UK Government takes these issues seriously and responds accordingly.

“This meeting also took place at a time when the UK Government is undermining devolution through the Internal Market Act and diverting funding away from the Scottish Parliament. This has to stop and instead the UK Government needs to start treating the Scottish Government and other devolved governments as equal partners.”