Gove insists generation must pass before new Scottish independence referendum

By Richard Wheeler, George Ryan and Lewis McKenzie, PA
·3-min read

Michael Gove has insisted a generation must pass before a second Scottish independence referendum can be considered.

The Cabinet Office minister was pressed by the SNP’s Kenny MacAskill (East Lothian) about the “inevitability” some senior Tories believe there is over another independence poll.

But Mr Gove said six years on from the last referendum is too soon, given SNP leaders had previously described the 2014 ballot as a “once-in-a-generation” event.

Kenny MacAskill
Kenny MacAskill said the people of Scotland will not accept ‘political chicanery’ (David Cheskin/PA)

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack earlier this month suggested a generation could be “25 or 40 years”, although polling has indicated Scots support holding a second referendum if pro-independence MSPs win a majority at Holyrood next year.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr MacAskill said: “Even senior Tories are accepting the inevitability of a second referendum.

“And as (Irish nationalist Charles Stewart) Parnell once said, ‘no man has the right to fix the boundary to the march of a nation’.

“Scots have learned, as the Secretary of State will know from the trickery of 1979 when even the dead were counted against.

“Does the Secretary of State not then realise that the people of Scotland will not accept political chicanery on the number or nature of the question to be asked?”

Mr Gove replied: “He makes a very, very important point.

“It’s absolutely vital we have confidence in the integrity of our democratic institutions and that’s why the Electoral Commission and other bodies play such an important role.

“But of course it’s also important people can have confidence in the promises made by politicians.

“And it was the case in 2014 that Nicola Sturgeon and other leading Scottish nationalists made the point that that referendum was for a generation.

“Just six years later, I do not believe a generation has passed.”

Later, in a Commons debate on Hong Kong, Conservative MP Kieran Mullan (Crewe and Nantwich) accused SNP MP Steven Bonnar (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) of committing a “disrespect” to the people of Hong Kong by linking their struggle for democracy with the Scottish independence movement.

Dr Mullan said: “To link in any way, shape or form what’s happening in Hong Kong – with the absolute destruction of people’s rights and their fundamental freedoms – with the healthy debate we have around Scottish independence is a disrespect, actually, to the people in that country making that fight.”

Responding, Foreign Office minister Nigel Adams said: “I won’t use the term ‘disrespectful’ to the honourable gentleman from the SNP’s comments but I would say he’s got more front than Scarborough to try and link the two issues during this urgent question.”

Earlier, Mr Bonnar said: “Does he (Mr Adams) recognise that continual attempts to simply deny the will of the Scottish people in relation to our own constitutional question will also be viewed by the watching world as an attack on democracy?”

Coronavirus – Thu Oct 1, 2020
Former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier took part in the debate (Parliament TV/PA)

Independent MP Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) also contributed to the debate on Hong Kong for the first time since she lost the SNP whip for making a train journey from London to Scotland after having received a positive Covid-19 test result.

During Business Questions, SNP Commons spokesman Tommy Sheppard raised the comments made by Alister Jack.

He said: “Sadly, the current Scottish Secretary just burrows further into his bunker.

“He declared this week that Scotland should not be able to consider this matter again for another 40 years.

“At least Donald Trump waited until after the election before denying the result.”

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg responded: “(Mr Sheppard) perhaps doesn’t see the irony of what he has just said.

“There was an election in 2014 and I’m afraid it is (Mr Sheppard) who is the Trump of Scotland because he is denying that result.”