THE first weekend since Boris Johnson broke away from the four-nation approach to lockdown and eased restrictions in England was marked by political clashes over his determination to open schools and council pleas to stop crowds of visitors at beach resorts.

The fall-out from his ‘‘address to the nation’’ last Sunday continues to grow as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland stuck to a more cautious approach.

Leading historian Professor Sir Tom Devine yesterday described the UK Government’s response to the crisis as “bumbledum”.

And a researcher at the think tank The Institute for Government said UK ministers would have to rethink how they deliver messages after Johnson’s speech caused widespread confusion.

Jess Sargeant said: “Although it is the UK Government and in some aspects of policy it speaks for the whole of the UK – in respect to lockdown it only speaks for England.

“I think the Prime Minister didn’t make that clear in his announcement on Sunday – there weren’t any references to the fact that certain announcements that he was making only applied to England. So definitely, I think this is something that UK Government ministers need to think about about much more going forward.”

Sargeant said there was a scientific basis for different parts of the UK wanting to move at different speeds out of lockdown and there was likely to be further divergence in the kind of steps being taken.

She said there was a need for the four governments across the UK to keep explaining why they are moving at different speeds or making different decisions.

“If it’s not clear to the public why that is the case, then I think there is a risk that people will feel that certain restrictions are unfair, and that might ultimately undermine compliance,” she said.

“So I think there’s a specific job for the UK Government to make it clear when they’re speaking for England.’’

Meanwhile, Professor Sir Tom Devine responded to accusations Nicola Sturgeon has been “playing politics” during the pandemic in a letter published in the Times newspaper yesterday.

He wrote: “If anyone is playing politics with the health of the nation it is the UK Government, with its unseemly rush to relax elements of the lockdown while Covid-19 maintains its power to kill.

“The Scottish Government has attracted commendation from many quarters both at home and abroad for its cool, controlled and systematic approach to this crisis.

“This contrasts with the bumbledum emanating from Downing Street, which has been forensically exposed by the leader of the opposition at PMQs.”

THE former chair of Yes Scotland, Dennis Canavant, told the Sunday National that while it would be wrong to exploit the Covid-19 crisis in order to score political points, the response of politicians in dealing with the crisis will be judged by some voters.

He said while Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of the situation contrasts with the Prime Minister and has even won praise from unionists, this alone will not be enough to persuade No voters to change their minds.

He argued that more work needs to be done to outline the vision of a fairer, more equal Scotland under independence – despite the potential boost for support resulting from the “astonishing incompetence” of Boris Johnson. Canavan, a former Labour MP and former Independent MP who chaired the Yes campaign in 2014, told the Sunday National it would be “wrong and possibly counter-productive” for any political party to try exploit the coronavirus crisis in order to score political points.

But he added: “However, it is inevitable that some voters will judge the response of politicians on criteria such as governmental competence in dealing with the pandemic.

“Boris Johnson has displayed an astonishing degree of incompetence such as his failure to respond to the EU offer of personal protective equipment and his failure to recognise that some of his pronouncements apply to England only.

“In general, Nicola Sturgeon has, by contrast, responded in a competent manner and, as a result, she commands a high degree of public confidence.”

Canavan said even some of his Unionist friends backed Sturgeon’s response as being more in touch with the people of Scotland.

But he added: “That of itself may not be enough to convince them to vote for independence and that is why we must work harder to project a positive vision of an independent Scotland.

“Once the pandemic is over, people will be looking for radical change, including a better resourced NHS and higher standards in the care home sector.

“Boris Johnson will no doubt try to impose more austerity measures.

“We must get the message across that an independent Scotland will be a huge opportunity to create a fairer, more equal society with more emphasis on social justice.

“We should be doing more in that respect both as individuals and as members of society.”

Despite the “four nations” approach at the beginning of the Covid crisis, all three devolved countries have now taken a different path from Westminster.

It meant while there were scenes of many returning to work in England last week – including commuters packed out on the London Underground – the message in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland remained to “Stay Home”.

A poll conducted by the Scottish Government last week found the majority of the public – 84% – back its approach to a “slow and gradual” lifting of restrictions. It also found 82% agree that before further significant changes to lockdown are made, the impact of those already introduced should be assessed.