Scottish Secretary dismisses SNP independence referendum demand

By Gavin Cordon, PA Whitehall Editor

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has dismissed claims by SNP ministers that they have secured a mandate for a second referendum on independence.

At talks in London, Scottish Constitutional Relations Secretary Mike Russell said the party had gained the right for fresh vote after winning 47 of the 59 Scottish seats in last month’s general election.

But Mr Jack said the SNP’s share of the popular vote was no higher than it was at the time of the 2014 independence referendum.

“We believe that the 45% of the people who voted for the SNP was a similar number who voted for independence in 2014,” he told reporters following the meeting.

“Our view is that 55% of Scotland voted for unionist parties and therefore they don’t have a mandate.”

Mr Jack said the UK Government would be making a “measured and considered” response to a formal request by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to hold a referendum under section 30 of the Scotland Act.

He insisted it was right the power to consent to a referendum remained at Westminster, otherwise Scotland would face a series of “never-endums” as the SNP sought the result it wanted.

“Once they could do that, they could just keep asking and create constitutional uncertainty, it would create economic uncertainty. It is damaging to jobs, damaging to taxation,” he said.

Scottish Constitutional Relations Secretary Mike Russell said the UK Government must respect his party’s mandate (Jane Barlow/PA)

The clash came at the first meeting of the Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) on EU negotiations since the general election.

It was attended by representatives of the UK and Scottish Governments, as well as the Welsh administration.

Following the talks, Mr Russell said they could not make progress on other issues until the referendum issue was resolved.

“We have a mandate to have a referendum in Scotland – there is no doubt about that,” he told reporters.

“I accept that the UK Government has a mandate to leave the EU. They have to accept our mandate.

“Until that issue is resolved it is very difficult to make progress on anything else. It will colour everything in this process from now on.”