‘Absolutely’ no prospect of second referendum on Scottish independence, says Michael Gove

Lizzy Buchan, Andrew Woodcock
'I am not the prime minister's diary secretary,' Michael Gove says: Getty

Michael Gove has said that the government “absolutely” will not allow a second referendum on Scottish independence within the next five years.

Boris Johnson made clear in a phone call with Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon on Friday that he remains opposed to an IndyRef2.

But SNP leader Ms Sturgeon said that Mr Johnson cannot “lock us in a cupboard and throw away the key” if Scotland wants independence.

And the SNP’s leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, said that a letter demanding a referendum under section 30 of the Scotland Act will be sent to Mr Johnson by Ms Sturgeon in the coming week.

“I accept that the Tories will rage against reality for as long as they can but the fact of the matter is that Scotland has chosen a very different future to the one chosen by much of the rest of the UK,” she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. “They can’t stand in the way of the will of the Scottish people.”​

Under the terms of the Scotland Act, the prime minister must grant his permission for a referendum on independence.

Asked on Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday whether this permission might be granted, Mr Gove replied: “No. Absolutely.”

He added: “We had a referendum on whether or not Scotland should be separate from the UK in 2014. We were told that that referendum would settle the question for a generation. In this general election, we have just seen what happens when politicians try to overturn a referendum result.

“In the same way, we should respect the referendum result of 2014. Scotland is stronger in the United Kingdom. You can be proudly Scottish and proudly British together.

“The best of this country – the NHS, the BBC – these are British institutions and therefore we should be proud of what we have achieved together and confirmed that the United Kingdom is a strong partnership that works for all.”

Ms Sturgeon said: “The risk for the Conservatives here – though I should be quite relaxed about it – is that the more they block the will of the Scottish people, the more contempt they show for Scottish democracy, the more they will increase support for Scottish independence.

“In a sense they are doing my job for me. The momentum and the mandate is on the side of those us who believe Scotland should be independent but it’s also on the side of those who might not be decided on independence but agree with that principle that it’s for the people of Scotland to make that decision.”

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon celebrates as she joins the SNP’s newly elected MPs for a group photo call outside the V&A Museum in Dundee (PA)

Ms Sturgeon said she gave this message to Mr Johnson in their phone call on Friday. “I said this to him on Friday night on the telephone – if he thinks saying no is the end of the matter then he is going to find himself completely and utterly wrong.”

Asked when Ms Sturgeon would formally inform the prime minister of her desire to hold a referendum, Mr Blackford told Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “This week.”

Mr Blackford declined to say which day the request would be submitted, telling Ridge: “You’ll see. We are not going to be announcing it publicly today but it will be happening this week, but you’ll see we will be making the case that that power should be transferred. That’s democracy. We’ve won the election. Boris Johnson can’t ignore it.

“He’s going to recognise that the SNP are speaking for the people of Scotland. We won this election, we’ve 45 per cent of the vote, 80 per cent of the seats. This issue is not going to go away. We will win that right to have a referendum on Scottish independence. This will happen and he should accept the reality of that sooner rather than later.”

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat interim leader Ed Davey was highly critical of Ms Sturgeon’s exuberant on-screen celebration of the defeat of party leader Jo Swinson in East Dunbartonshire, when she was filmed punching the air in delight.

“She’s not very dignified, is she?” Sir Ed told Ridge. “I think that approach to politics – taking glee in someone else’s defeat in the way she does, a very personal way – isn’t appropriate for the first minister of Scotland.”

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