British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited a testing center in Glasgow on Thursday (January 28), despite criticism from Scottish leaders who say it is far from essential travel during the national lockdown.
Johnson's spokesman said the visit to Scotland is a fundamental part of his job, saying "It is important that he is continuing to meet and see those who are on the front line."
Johnson met with members of the British Army as they prepared a mass vaccination centre in the city, but his visit is also seen as an opportunity to stem growing support for another independence referendum in Scotland -- by arguing that the pandemic has shown the benefits of staying together.
The bonds that tie England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland together in a $3 trillion economy have been severely strained by both Brexit and Johnson's handling of the coronavirus.
Opinion surveys show that a majority of Scots would now back independence, though Johnson has repeatedly said that now is not the time for another referendum.
Ahead of his visit, which was criticized by Scottish nationalists including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Johnson said that Scotland as a part of the United Kingdom gained access to a coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford -- and the shots are being administered by the shared armed forces.