PMQs: Boris Johnson shuts down independence question
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While both the Prime Minister and Scottish First Minister publicly say their attention is fully focused on combatting the pandemic, behind closed doors strategies are being developed for a new vote on Scotland’s future in the United Kingdom. Ms Sturgeon has vowed to hold an independence referendum by the end of the current Holyrood parliament.
The SNP leader says she has a mandate for a fresh vote on the issue after Scots elected a majority of pro-independence MSPs in May’s Scottish Parliament elections.
The First Minister has vowed to hold a vote as soon as Scotland has recovered from the coronavirus pandemic, while Mr Johnson has also refused to rule out a future vote on the issue, merely saying now is “not the time” for a fresh vote.
Pressure is mounting on the Prime Minister to set out his plan to combat the support of the separatist movement north of the border.
Ministers are said to be urging Mr Johnson to back a plan to let Scots who live in any part of the UK vote on the future of the country’s place in the Union.
“We know Sturgeon will start trying to force another referendum as soon as she thinks it is politically tenable again,” one Cabinet minister told The Times.
“One thing is to open up eligibility of the vote to all Scots in the UK, not just those living in Scotland.”
Another senior Conservative said: “Independence is behind in the polls now, and Sturgeon is getting flak from her own side for not talking about it since the election.
“We need to get out there on the front foot and start acting like we’re ahead and not just wait for her to catch up again, which was the catastrophic mistake we made after the 2014 referendum.”
The Scottish Government must ask permission from Westminster to hold a referendum, meaning No10 will be in control of the terms of the vote.
In the 2014 ballot, the SNP managed to convince David Cameron and the then coalition Government to give votes to 16-18 year-olds.
The decision favoured the independence movement, with the SNP commanding greater support among young people.
Letting all Scots vote in any future vote would undoubtedly boost the case for the Union, making it far harder for the SNP to win a referendum.
Polling expert Sir John Curtice believes letting all Scots across the Union vote would mean the SNP would require the support of at least 54 percent to win.
Only a handful of polls have shown the nationalists commanding such support.
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In October last year support for breaking away from the UK hit a record high with an Ipsos MORI survey suggesting 58 percent would back Yes in a vote.
Confidence in Ms Sturgeon’s handling of the pandemic was credited in part for the boost.
In the months leading up to the Scottish election at the start of May, a series of consecutive polls indicated there was surging support for independence in Scotland.
However, support peaked prior to votes going to the polls with successive surveys now indicating there is majority support for Scotland remaining in the UK.
Pledging a new referendum upon winning May’s election, Ms Sturgeon said if was a case of “when not if” a vote would be held.
She told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show at the time: “I have just won a landslide election and another five-year term as First Minister.
“I have got the energy, the appetite, to get on with the job.
“Firstly to get us through Covid, that is my priority, and then I hope to lead to Scotland to independence.”
The SNP won 64 seats in Holyrood last month, one short of an overall majority.
With seven Scottish Green Party candidates being elected, a majority of MSPs in the parliament are in favour of independence.
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