Alister Jack has dismissed SNP plans to hold a second independence poll in the event of victory at next year’s Scottish parliament elections, saying nationalists will have to wait 25 to 40 years for another referendum.
The Scottish Secretary said Westminster would not be transferring referendum powers to Holyrood a “generation hasn’t passed” since the last independence vote.
The comment echoes previous rebuttals from Boris Johnson, who said in a letter to Nicola Sturgeon earlier this year “you and your predecessor made a personal promise that the 2014 independence referendum was a ‘once in a generation’ vote. The people of Scotland voted decisively on that promise to keep our United Kingdom together.”
He has echoed this line whenever questioned about the matter, but the SNP insists times have changed and the party has an “unarguable” mandate for a new referendum.
The row came on the back of a twelfth poll showing there is now majority support among Scots for breaking away from the UK.
NEW @Survation Poll – Scottish Independence Referendum
“Should Scotland be an independent country?”
Yes 54% (+1)
No 46% (-1)
— Survation. (@Survation) November 5, 2020
Mr Jack, speaking to the BBC, said: “It’s very clear that it’s a no because a generation hasn’t passed.
“We’ve had two referenda in the last six years and they’ve been quite divisive to our society, they create a lot of uncertainty for business.
“What we need to do now is to focus on rebuilding our economy and giving business certainty, that creates more jobs that improves people’s livelihoods.”
Asked how long a generation was, Mr Jack said: “Is it 25 years or is it 40 years you tell me, but it’s certainly not six years, nor ten.”
“It’s no for a generation”
SNP counting on that crumbling if they win big in Holyrood election due 6 months today pic.twitter.com/YFnZJLvPiL
— Glenn Campbell (@GlennBBC) November 6, 2020
Mr Jack argues that UK investment in road and rail infrastructure, city deals and Covid recovery in Scotland will help to win people over.
Asked if Mr Jack’s view was shared by the prime minister, a Number 10 spokesman said: “The issue of independence was settled when the Scottish people voted decisively to remain part of the UK.
“It was billed at the time as a once in a generation vote, and the prime minister has been clear that he believes that must be respected.”
The comments could come to fuel the argument, advanced by several senior nationalists, that there should be a “plan B” route to independence to sidestep “Westminster’s veto”.
Under one alternative plan, next year’s Holyrood elections would become “an effective referendum on independence” – with an SNP win giving the Scottish Government the “mandate” for separation.
Nicola Sturgeon, responding to Mr Jack’s comments, said: “I think we are seeing played out in real time in another part of the world today that politicians don’t get stand in the way of democracy.
“Power comes from people not from politicians. The will of the people in any country has to prevail.
“I don’t treat those comments with too much in the way of seriousness. The people of Scotland will decide the future of Scotland.
“That’s how it has always been and that’s how it will be in the future.”