Prime Minister refuses indy ref 2

25 April 2019, 16:20

The Saltire and Union Flag

Theresa May's deputy has firmly rejected any suggestion Westminster could grant Holyrood the power to hold a second independence referendum.

Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed that if Brexit goes ahead she will seek to hold another vote on the issue before the next Scottish elections in May 2021.

But David Lidington said instead the Scottish Government should be focusing on using the powers it has.

"We don't see any evidence that there's a demand from the people of Scotland for changing the decision they took in 2014," the Cabinet Office minister said.

"That referendum was something that the First Minister and her colleagues said at the time would settle matters for a generation."

Mr Lidington spoke after former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said supporters of independence were "delusional" if they expected a second referendum to take place anytime soon - despite the First Minister's statement to Holyrood on Wednesday.

SNP leader Ms Sturgeon pledged new legislation, laying down the rules and regulations for a second independence vote, will be introduced to the Scottish Parliament "shortly".

In addition, she is seeking cross-party talks with opposition leaders about Holyrood's powers, while a citizens' assembly is to be set up to examine wider questions on Scotland's future.

Mr MacAskill claimed: "Holding another referendum's problematic and those expecting an immediate poll delusional."

Instead, he argued Ms Sturgeon's statement had been made in a bid to appease SNP members ahead of the party's conference in Edinburgh this weekend, with the continuing Brexit uncertainty having left the SNP leader under pressure to name a date for a second ballot.

The 2014 referendum, in which Scots chose to stay in the UK by 55% to 45%, took place after Westminster granted Holyrood a section 30 order, extending its powers to enable the vote to take place.

"We don't see that the Section 30 order is called for," Mr Lidington said during a visit to Glasgow.

"I don't see that that's going to help put right problems with Scottish schools, Scottish hospitals. I think that's not a priority."

He added: "We've got a devolution system in Scotland that's given many additional powers to the Scottish Government/Scottish Parliament and some of those powers haven't even been used.

"I think that there is plenty more that can be done in terms of the Scottish Government and Parliament using the powers that there are."

Scottish Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said by pushing ahead with plans for another referendum Ms Sturgeon was trying to keep the country's options open in the face of a Westminster Government that does "not give a damn for the people of Scotland".

He claimed the SNP leader was "fulfilling the mandate that if Scotland was taken out of the EU against Scotland's will that we would have a right to have a referendum".

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Mr Mackay said: "Scotland has to have its options open, we have to have the right to choose our future rather than leave it in the hands of Westminster, who have shown they do not give a damn for the people of Scotland."

He added: "We're putting in the foundations to enable referenda to happen and in terms of independence ensure that we have that choice in this term of the Scottish Parliament, fulfilling a mandate that ultimately the SNP has won elections on."