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Sunak defends holding general election during Scottish school holidays

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First Minister John Swinney claimed it showed a “lack of respect”.

He told BBC Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “I don’t really think the arrangements in Scotland for the school holidays have really been anywhere near the calculations made by the Prime Minister.”

“What it means is that people who are going to be on holiday at the start of the school holidays in late June, early July have got to arrange a postal vote so that they can exercise their right to vote and be participants in our democracy, so that’s got to be put in place pretty quickly by folk,” he added.

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During a visit to the Port of Nigg in the Highlands, Mr Sunak was asked about the comments.

“If John Swinney and the SNP want to talk about Scottish schools, what they should be focused on is the fact that they’ve let down Scottish schoolchildren for years and years,” the Prime Minister said.

He added: “Scottish schools used to be the envy not just of the United Kingdom but the envy of the world. And under the SNP leadership, Scottish schools have plummeted down international league tables, letting down a generation of schoolchildren, that’s what we should be focused on.”

Mr Sunak also pointed to comments at Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, when Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s Westminster leader, asked if he intended to call a summer general election, or if he was “feart”?

“And then when we do have an election, the SNP suddenly decide that they didn’t think that was the right thing to do and focus on process to distract from their failures, and the fact that they let down Scottish school children,” the Tory leader said.

The Prime Minister was then asked if he would apologise to families who had booked holidays in early July.

“I think as I’ve addressed this before, this is the right moment to have this election because we’ve restored economic stability after a difficult few years, inflation’s back to normal, wages have now been rising faster than prices for 10 months, the economy this year, has grown at a healthy rate and energy bills are falling.

“So this is the moment to think about our future and decide how we can build on the stability that we’ve now got.

“And I’m very clear that we live in uncertain times. And that’s why we need a clear plan and bold action to deliver a secure future for people in Scotland and across the United Kingdom.”

Mr Sunak said that during his time in office he had always “tried very hard to work constructively with the SNP government to deliver for people in Scotland.”

He pointed to the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Freeport which takes in the Port of Nigg.

“The freeport that we’re in is a good example of that constructive collaboration. Freeports attracting jobs and investment to Scotland, which will make a real difference to people as we’ve been talking about today.

“You know, my observation on the SNP is they’re so obsessed with independence and constitutional change, that they take their eye off the ball on the day to day things that matter to people here in Scotland.

“Every time I’m here, people are talking to me about the cost of living. And while I’m busy trying to cut taxes for working people in Scotland, the SNP have made Scotland the highest taxed part of the UK, not just for higher earners, but for everyone earning just over £28,500.”

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Slightly awkwardly for Mr Sunak, the Port of Nigg is in the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross constituency, which does not yet have a Tory candidate.

Douglas Ross, who was accompanying the Prime Minister, said the Scottish party had 42 of their 57 candidates already in place and that the others would be installed in the next week.

Mr Sunak’s decision to call a summer election surprised many in Westminster. Most had been expecting a vote in the autumn.

The news has reportedly caused disquiet among some Tory MPs.

Much of the first day of the campaign for Mr Sunak was overshadowed by his admission that planes to Rwanda carrying asylum seekers will not take off before the election.

Sir Keir Starmer accused him of calling an early vote to avoid the scheme.

Mr Sunak said those who wanted to see it work should back him at the election.

“If you think stopping the boats is important, and you think like I do that you need a deterrent to do that… then I’m the only one that’s going to deliver that,” he added.

He also had a tricky moment in Wales, during a tour of a brewery.

The Prime Minister asked staff there if they were looking forward to the Euros in the summer.

After being told the country had not qualified for the tournament, Mr Suank added: “It’ll be a good summer of sport”.

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