Prime Minister Boris Johnson should hold at least four meetings each year with the leaders of Wales Scotland and Northern Ireland, a think tank has suggested.

Our Scottish Future made the plea after a report examining how the different governments had worked together during the pandemic commented on the “seemingly dire personal relationship” between Boris Johnson and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The think tank was set up by former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2019, and describes its political position as between “no change Unionism” and “no compromise nationalism”.

Its findings mirror how Mark Drakeford has often described his relationship with Downing Street as 'fractured'.

However, while Mr Drakeford has never shied away from pointing the finger at Boris Johnson, the think tanks report suggest lessons must be learnt on all sides.

The paper, based on interviews with senior figures in both the London and Edinburgh governments, argued the close working relationships that have now been built up between health ministers across the UK need to be replicated and become a permanent feature of politics.

It insisted a “fundamental review of relations” is needed in an attempt to “examine the root causes which lay behind the failure to co-operate during the Covid crisis”.

The think tank found the “absence of communication between the UK Government and the devolved administrations reduced the opportunity for effective engagement between the centre and the nations and regions”.

It stated: “Good crisis management relies entirely on clear lines of reporting, forums for collaboration and good information-sharing so that, even when stakeholders have different views, those differences of opinion can be aired and resolved speedily.

“This was missing entirely during a crucial part of the pandemic response – the period we had to ‘get our act together’ before an inevitable second wave.”

The think tank found UK officials often complained about the Scottish Government’s “refusal to accept that co-operation was a "two-way street".

One said: “In our case, officials from the devolved administrations were always invited to key meetings but never once were our own officials allowed into theirs.”

As a result of this, “Downing Street appears to have decided to pull up the drawbridge completely”.

Relation between Westminster and Cardiff Bay and Hollyrood reached several low points during the pandemic. In July last year, the Scottish and Welsh governments criticised the quarantine arrangements put in place for travellers coming to the UK from overseas.

In September, Mr Drakeford revealed he had not had a phone call from Mr Johnson in four months, something he branded “simply unacceptable”.

Professor David Kerr, a cancer expert at the University of Oxford and chairman of Our Scottish Future’s Health Commission, said it is "clear that the pandemic too often witnessed a deficit of co-operation and co-ordination between the UK and Scottish Governments, which only risked potential damage to our response to the disease”.

The report said sour relations could be attributed to political differences between the Tory regime at Westminster and its SNP and Labour equivalents.

The think tank concluded that the UK Government and the devolved administrations now need to “reconstruct their relationships from first principle”.

As well as recommending that Mr Johnson holds meetings with the First Ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on a quarterly basis, it called for the creation of “permanent, formalised and open lines of co-operation” between the governments on shared health challenges.

This could help “develop joined-up policy areas” and also provide a setting where experts could share their knowledge with both Westminster and the devolved governments.

Responding to the report and recommendations, a UK Government spokesman said: “We have faced the pandemic as one United Kingdom, working together with the devolved administrations to support jobs, back public services and deliver our hugely successful UK-wide vaccine rollout programme.

“There is already regular communication between all levels of the UK Government and the devolved administrations, and we want to build on that meaningful engagement as we focus on our collective recovery; from getting people back into jobs, tackling NHS backlogs, and catching up pupils on lost school hours.”

*Additional reporting by PA

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