The Scottish Government has “many options” it could use to push for a second independence referendum if Boris Johnson continues to deny such a vote, a Holyrood minister has said.
Constitutional Relations Secretary Mike Russell spoke out after the PM rejected First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s demands for Holyrood to be given the power to stage a second ballot on Scotland’s place in the UK.
The Tory leader claimed allowing such a vote would lead to continued “political stagnation” in Scotland, with the Government focused on making the case for independence instead of improving schools and hospitals.
Mr Russell, however, accused the Prime Minister of ignoring the wishes of Scots voters, who in last month’s general election returned an increased number of SNP MPs.
After a campaign heavily focused on giving Scots the right to choose their country’s future, Nicola Sturgeon’s party won 47 of the 59 seats up for grabs north of the border.
Today I have written to Nicola Sturgeon. The Scottish people voted decisively to keep our United Kingdom together, a result which both the Scottish and UK Governments committed to respect.
Let's make 2020 a year of growth and opportunity for the whole of the UK 🇬🇧 pic.twitter.com/JjQp3X2J2n
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) January 14, 2020
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Russell said: “I think you can either have democracy or you can have dictatorship, you can’t have both.
“If Boris Johnson wants to be a dictator that simply says ‘other people’s votes don’t matter, Scotland’s doesn’t matter, Scotland isn’t a nation’, that is a decision which cannot hold in my view, because it goes so much against the views of the people of Scotland.
“Even those who are not in favour of independence, we know are in favour of saying it is right that if the people of Scotland vote for something they get their chance to choose. That is all this is about.”
Ms Sturgeon has refused to rule out taking legal action in a bid to win the right to hold a fresh independence ballot.
Mr Russell said SNP ministers had “many options” but added he did “not want to go into them”.
“As we move forward, they will all become clear,” he added.
SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC has, however, warned there is “no shortcut to an independent Scotland through litigation”.
There is no shortcut to an #independent Scotland through litigation although the courts may play a role in determining the limits of Holyrood’s powers. Ultimately the answer lies in political strategy & reaching out beyond the political tribes
— Joanna Cherry QC (@joannaccherry) January 14, 2020
Ms Cherry was involved in the court challenge which resulted in the PM’s decision to prorogue Parliament being declared illegal.
She said the courts could “play a role in determining the limits of Holyrood’s powers” but that the “answer lies in political strategy and reaching out beyond the political tribes”.
Ms Sturgeon has already said she will ask the Scottish Parliament to endorse her call for another independence referendum in a vote in the coming weeks.
But Tory MP Douglas Ross said: “The Prime Minister has been very clear that there will not be another independence referendum.”
The Scotland Office minister, also speaking on Good Morning Scotland, said: “A vote in the Scottish Parliament does not deliver an independence referendum, it is rightly reserved to the UK Parliament because if Scotland was to separate from the United Kingdom that would have an impact for the United Kingdom and I think it’s right that the UK Government holds the powers over referendums going forward.
“That’s why I think devolving that to the SNP would simply get us into this process of neverendums and we don’t need that, we need continuity now, we need some calm and some focus on the issues that the Scottish Government have powers over, not new powers that they want to get.”