BORIS Johnson’s visit to Scotland to promote the Union is “absolutely essential”, Cabinet member Michael Gove has insisted.

Yesterday, during her daily Covid-19 briefing, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon questioned whether the trip is necessary during the pandemic. 

After 20 consecutive polls showed independence support as the majority position, the Prime Minister is visiting Scotland today to argue that the Union has been integral in administering the Covid-19 vaccine, providing coronavirus testing and giving economic support.

Sturgeon said Johnson’s visit to Scotland is “not essential” during the current lockdowns, arguing that politicians have a “duty to lead by example” as the public live under tight restrictions.

READ MORE: Covid in Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon says Boris Johnson's visit is not essential

There are growing concerns in Westminster about support for Scottish independence, as with the SNP set to run their Holyrood campaign calling for a new referendum. 

According to the latest polling the party is set to win a majority in the Parliament. 

Ahead of the visit, Cabinet Office minister Gove told BBC Radio Scotland: “He’s the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, it’s absolutely essential that the Prime Minister is there to see how on the front line we are progressing in our vaccine delivery and rollout programme.

“It’s critically important that the Scottish Government and the UK Government are working together to do everything we can to support the rollout and see what we can do to improve it.”

Gove insisted there is “no substitute for a leader better than being there”, when questioned why he did not speak to people remotely.

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He said the visit will present “no danger to anyone’s health”, adding “the Prime Minister will be operating in a Covid-secure way”.

There are concerns that Johnson may not be the best figure to champion the Union. Polls show support for Yes steadily increased since he was elected Prime Minister with an 80-seat majority in December. He is not well liked in Scotland.

However Gove insisted on BBC Breakfast that the Prime Minister is “a huge asset” for the Union, when challenged over his handling of Brexit and Covid-19.

Downing Street, which has insisted it is key for Johnson to remain “visible” as the “physical representative” of the UK Government, plans to stress the benefits for Scotland of being in the UK.

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Officials said Westminster has delivered more than one million rapid lateral flow test kits to Scotland so far and is funding testing sites across the country – including seven drive-through centres, 27 walk-in sites and 21 mobile testing units, along with the Lighthouse Lab in Glasgow.

Westminster cash has provided 62% of testing kits in Scotland, No 10 added.

Speaking ahead of his visit to Scotland, the Prime Minister said: “Mutual co-operation across the UK throughout this pandemic is exactly what the people of Scotland expect and it is what I have been focused on.

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“The people of the UK have stood together during this pandemic: from our doctors and nurses in our hospitals to our shop workers, scientists, lorry drivers and teachers – working together as one truly United Kingdom is the best way to build our Covid recovery.”

SNP deputy leader Keith Brown said the Prime Minister’s trip is evidence that he is in a “panic” about the prospect of another referendum.

The MSP said: “Clearly, Boris Johnson is rattled. By branding this campaign trip as ‘essential’, this is clearly a Prime Minister in panic, who knows the Tories are losing the argument on independence.

“Twenty polls in a row have shown that a majority of voters believe Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands – not Boris Johnson’s.”