THE leaders of Scotland and Wales have accused Boris Johnson of deserting his post at one of the “most critical points” of the pandemic.

At the Welsh Government’s coronavirus briefing, Mark Drakeford complained of a “vacancy at the heart of the United Kingdom,” saying there was little discussion between London and the devolved governments.

Nicola Sturgeon echoed the comments, saying that she couldn’t remember the last time she’d spoken to the Prime Minister.

With the virus spiralling across the country, fuelling speculation of a second wave, she called on Johnson to host an urgent COBRA meeting this weekend.

On Friday, there were 4322 new lab-confirmed cases of the virus across the UK - a rise of nearly 1000 on the previous day and the highest number recorded since May.

Sturgeon warned further restrictions may be necessary to “interrupt and break this growth” in Scotland.

This weekend, the First Minister added, would be “critical in the assessment of how best to do that.”

There are reports that the UK Government is considering another, short-term lockdown across England, which could include closing pubs and restaurants but keeping schools open. 

Reports suggest this “circuit-breaker” could be announced as soon as next week.

But Johnson has not discussed this with Sturgeon or Drakeford.

The Scottish First Minister told the briefing: “Discussions across the four nations of the UK will, I hope, take place in the coming days. I have this morning asked the Prime Minister to convene a COBRA meeting over this weekend.”

Sturgeon gave Scots “advance notice that the coming days are likely to see some hard but necessary decisions.”

“We want to avoid another full scale lockdown,” she said, but “doing nothing almost certainly isn’t an option.”

In Cardiff, Drakeford - who has also called for a COBRA meeting - hit out at the UK government’s silence.

The Welsh Labour leader said he hadn’t spoken to Johnson since May 28, calling the lack of communication “simply unacceptable to anyone who believes that we ought to be facing the coronavirus crisis together.

He added: “We need a regular, reliable, rhythm of engagement: a reliable meeting even once a week would be a start.

“I make this argument not because we should all do the same things, but because being round the same table allows each of us to make the best decisions for the nations we represent.

“There is a vacancy at the heart of the United Kingdom, and it needs urgently to be filled, so we can talk to each other, share information, pool ideas and demonstrate a determination that the whole of the country can face these challenges together at this most difficult time.”

Asked by The National about Drakeford’s comments, Sturgeon said she could not remember the last time she had spoken to the Prime Minister, adding “which maybe tells its own story”.

She said: “Mark Drakeford is not saying anything that is not correct.
“Most of the four nations’ discussions recently have been with Michael Gove.

"I’m not criticising that, they are helpful, I think they could do with being in a more regular rhythm and sometimes being a bit more meaningful in terms of us actually discussing what we are going to do as opposed to hearing what the UK government is going to do.”

Sturgeon said it “would be very helpful to have a PM-led four nations cobra type discussion over this weekend.”

“This might sound like quite a dramatic thing to say given what we’ve all been through the in the past six months, but the moment we are in right now it probably the most critical point of decision since the one we faced in late March,” she added.

The calls were echoed by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Keir Starmer.

The Labour leader said  this was the “time for swift, decisive national action. We cannot afford to be too slow.”

He said Johnson needed to update the country “on the measures the government is taking to keep the virus under control”.

A spokesman for the UK Government said: “We have confronted this virus as one United Kingdom, working with the devolved administrations and local partners to get through the pandemic.

"There have been hundreds of meetings and calls with the devolved administrations and local partners since the pandemic began. This has included Cobra meetings, committees and dozens of other meetings with UK government ministers and officials. “