BORIS Johnson has said reports that he called devolution a “disaster” and Tony Blair’s “biggest mistake” were not made “entirely accurately”.

Addressing the Scottish Conservative conference in a pre-recorded speech this afternoon, the Prime Minister rowed back on the comment and insisted instead that the “way the SNP have handled devolution in Scotland has been a disaster”.

He added: “Just because I criticise devolved performance, does not mean I want to end or undermine devolution.”

It had been reported earlier this week that in a meeting with about 60 northern English MPs, the Prime Minister made the comment.  

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The remarks attracted cross-party condemnation with many Scottish Tories apparently furious with the choice of language.

In his speech, the party leader told the conference: “As a former mayor of London, I know how effective devolved powers can be, for example in making transport greener and in tackling crime; devolution should not be used by politicians as a wall to break an area of the UK away from the rest, it should be used as a step, to pass power down to local communities and businesses to make their lives better.”

He added that “at this time there is simply no room for division or distraction over the constitution”.

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He called for more co-operation between the devolved nations, saying: “If we want – as we must – to boost Scotland’s economy and create more and better paid jobs for Scottish workers – let’s unite and work together to do it.

“If we want – as it vital – to improve Scotland’s transport connections to other parts of the UK, then let’s unite and work together to deliver them.”

The Prime Minister’s speech followed Scottish Secretary Alister Jack’s this morning, who told the conference that the SNP should honour their “once-in-a-generation” claims about a new independence referendum.

However, the Smith Commission, signed by all Holyrood parties following the 2014 independence referendum, makes clear there is no reason Scotland cannot seek to become an independent nation in the future.