Sunak pledges to work constructively with Scotland's leader

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Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak toasts marshmallows during a visit to the Sea scouts community group in Muirtown near Inverness, Scotland, Thursday Jan. 12, 2023. (Andrew Milligan/Pool via AP)

LONDON – U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged Friday to work constructively with Scotland’s leader despite tensions over her administration’s wish for a new independence referendum.

Sunak held private talks with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during his first visit to Scotland since taking power, saying that while they are “not going to agree on everything,” he believes there is scope for cooperation. Sturgeon’s relationship with Sunak’s two predecessors, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, had been frosty in light of Sturgeon’s demand for Scottish independence.

“What I want to do as prime minister of the United Kingdom is work constructively with the Scottish government to make a difference to people in Scotland,” Sunak told the BBC. “We’ve got lots of challenges that we all face collectively around the U.K., and where we can work together and make a difference, we should.”

Sturgeon described their meeting as having been “perfectly constructive and cordial.”

The U.K. government said the question of independence was settled in a 2014 referendum, when Scottish voters rejected the referendum by a margin of 55% to 45%.

Sturgeon has argued the situation has changed since then, and her semiautonomous government has pushed for a new vote. But in November, the U.K. Supreme Court said her government didn’t have the power to hold a new independence referendum without the consent of the U.K. government.