Anne Widdecombe discusses Sturgeon's referendum 'U-turn'
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Nicola Sturgeon, 51, has come under fire from a Tory MP in Scotland after the SNP leader pledged to do her utmost to hold an independence referendum before 2023. John Lamont, 45, claimed Scots were against holding yet another constitutional poll and stressed COVID-19 has demonstrated the merits of Scotland remaining in the United Kingdom.
Speaking about Ms Sturgeon’s pledge, Mr Lamont told Express.co.uk: “The First Minister’s plans to push forward another independence referendum are reckless.
“Instead, I believe we should be focussing on recovering from the pandemic.”
He added: “To continue to seek another independence referendum at a time when we should be focussed on helping people, businesses and public services to recover from the events of the last two years is completely irresponsible.”
But the MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk, who vowed to “continue to make the case that Scotland is better together with the rest of the UK”, also argued the Union has helped the country respond to the outbreak of coronavirus.
Mr Lamont added: “The pandemic has brought the strength of the Union into sharp focus.
“The broad shoulders of the UK Treasury have provided a safety net for hundreds of thousands of Scottish workers who were furloughed.”
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The ex-solicitor, who entered the Commons in 2017, continued: “The British Armed Forces have provided invaluable assistance to our public services.
“Businesses continue to benefit from Covid support funds.
“People in Scotland know that this scale of support was only possible due to the sharing and pooling of resources across the UK.
“I do not believe people want to see another referendum at this time.”
Despite Mr Lamont’s comments, Ms Sturgeon could request for Westminster to pass a section 30 order which would empower Holyrood to legislate for IndyRef2.
But Boris Johnson, 57, appeared to rule out holding another referendum following his victory in the 2019 General Election.
Writing to the First Minister in January 2020, the Prime Minister said: “Another independence referendum would continue the political stagnation that Scotland has seen for the last decade”.
A UK Government spokesperson appeared to reaffirm this position earlier this week.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, they said: “People in Scotland rightly expect us to continue working together to tackle the pandemic.
“The UK and Scottish Government both have a huge amount to do to recover our economy and public services – that means getting our NHS back to full fitness, getting people back into work, and catching up our young people on the education they’ve missed.
“This should be our entire focus, not a distracting constitutional debate.”
Despite the UK Government being committed to bouncing back from COVID-19, recent revelations of Downing Street parties have threatened to put yet another strain on support for the Union.
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House of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, 52, even claimed the leader of the Scottish Tories Douglas Ross, 38, was a political “lightweight” after the Moray MP responded to ‘partygate’ by handing in a letter of no confidence against Mr Johnson to the 1922 Committee.
During First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon pounced on Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments to claim it showed Westminster completely disregards Scotland.
She said: “We’ve seen the big political differences with Douglas Ross but even I am not as derogatory about him as his own Tory colleagues are being.
“‘Not a big figure’, ‘lightweight’, these might be personal insults directed at the leader of the Scottish Conservatives but actually this says something much deeper about the Westminster’s establishment utter contempt for Scotland.
“They can’t even show basic respect for their own colleagues, what chance do the rest of us have?
“Westminster thinks Scotland doesn’t need to be listened to, can be ignored.”
Ms Sturgeon also told STV on Monday the Scottish Government will push ahead with their plan to hold yet another independence referendum.
She said: “My plans haven’t changed from what I set out at the end of last year.”
The Glasgow Southside MSP added: “I intend to do everything that’s within my power to enable that referendum to happen before the end of 2023.”
However, Ms Sturgeon was accused of climbing down from her previous pledge after the STV interviewer claimed there was a real chance a challenge in the courts could “push your timetable back”.
Express.co.uk reached out to the Scottish Government to give the devolved administration the opportunity to reiterate their position on IndyRef2.
A spokesperson for the First Minister said: “The people of Scotland decided they wanted a referendum in May’s election last year, when they elected a decisive majority of MSPs on a clear manifesto commitment to hold an independence referendum – a majority greater than the mandate won in 2011.”
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