Call Nicola’s bluff! Boris Johnson urged to call snap Scottish independence referendum

Nicola Sturgeon appears in SNP election campaign advert

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The PM was warned he must change tactics and allow a snap independence referendum in order to halt Nicola Sturgeon’s pursuit to break up the UK. Mr Johnson has been told he must abandon his refusal to call a second vote on Scotland’s independence by Philip Rycroft, permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union until 2019. And Cabinet members have called on Mr Johnson to call an unexpected referendum to catch Ms Sturgeon and the SNP on the hop.

With the SNP expected to win a majority in next month’s Holyrood election, Mr Rycroft warned the Prime Minister’s refusal of a second vote was fuelling the argument for Scottish independence.

Ahead of the election next month, Mr Rycroft claimed a nationalist majority is now “likely to transpire” and will add fuel to Ms Sturgeon’s hopes of a second independence vote in the first few years of the party’s term.

In his paper, a ‘Union at the Crossroads: Can the British State Handle the Challenges of Devolution?’, Mr Rycroft claimed the First Minister has shown great skill in navigating the pandemic.

The First Minister’s lockdown strategy has also cast doubts over Mr Johnson’s handling of the crisis and therefore improved her chances of an independence referendum, Mr Rycroft claimed.

He added: “Nicola Sturgeon’s presentational skills, and growing doubts about Johnson’s handling of the crisis, meant that her approval ratings improved while his diminished markedly in both Scotland and England.

“The pandemic has shone a harsh, unforgiving light upon the poorly developed, and often mistrustful, relationships between the devolved and UK governments, and set the scene for growing doubts about the future viability of the devolved Union.”

With the future of the UK in doubt, Mr Rycroft also compared Mr Johnson’s style to Scottish independence as similar to the Tories’ opposition to Irish home rule which failed to prevent the creation of the Irish Republic.

Mr Rycroft also warned Brexit had created severe issues for Britain’s political institutions since 2016.

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He said: “The future of the UK is increasingly in doubt.

“Ever since the vote to leave the European Union in June 2016, Britain’s political institutions have been racked by the turbulence triggered by Brexit.”

Amid the calls to change tact over Scotland’s independence, one minister claimed Mr Johnson cannot say no to a second vote for much longer.

They told The Sunday Times: “I don’t see how we keep saying ‘no’ forever.

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“The time to do it would be in the middle of economic chaos, not when it’s all looking rosy.”

A second source said: “Boris has said a lot about honouring democratic votes after the EU referendum.

“If people vote for a referendum in Scotland, ultimately they’ll have to have one.”

Amid the pressure to hold a second independence vote, Ms Sturgeon insisted the Prime Minister will not stop a second vote if her party wins a majority.

She told The Guardian: “If people in Scotland vote for a party saying, ‘when the time is right, there should be an independence referendum’, you cannot stand in the way of that, and I don’t think that is what will happen.

“People will always challenge that because of what the supposed position of the UK government is.”

The SNP currently holds 61 seats in the Scottish Parliament and is expected to increase that share next month.

There is concern, however, Alex Salmond’s Alba party may splinter those in favour of an independent Scotland.

Mr Salmond, however, has claimed his party is hoping to secure a supermajority for independence.

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