Tory advisors urge Boris Johnson to grant Nicola Sturgeon a second independence referendum

PUBLISHED: 16:18 17 August 2020 | UPDATED: 16:18 17 August 2020

Prime minister Boris Johnson; Molly Darlington/PA Wire

Prime minister Boris Johnson; Molly Darlington/PA Wire

Boris Johnson is being urged by his advisors to quickly grant Scotland a second independence referendum if Nicola Sturgeon wins a landslide majority in next May’s Holyrood elections.

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Peter Duncan, a former shadow secretary of state for Scotland, has said the UK government risks infuriating Union supporters if it continues to flatly refuse Holyrood a legally-binding referendum.

The former MP said told The Sunday Times: “The way for Unionists to win the argument on independence is not to be seen to deny any clear mandate for a referendum that may exist after the elections next year.

“A ‘no, never’ approach will fan the flames for independence, as the smarter advisers in Downing Street are now making clear.”

The report failed to name which advisors had backed the idea.

Duncan added: “The front-foot approach that I would recommend means that there needs to be a plan for an early response after next May’s election – dragging feet has never yet been proven to be a good platform for winning any argument.

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“The route to defending the Union is to be prepared, then proactive and positive. Carping negativity looks likely to end in failure.”

He said Brexit had propelled independence supporters. “For some, it may accentuate the argument for separation, but nationalists will have to argue that a Union with Brussels is more important to Scotland that a Union across the UK – that’s a tough argument to make, and a very difficult one to win.”

The Scottish Tories declined to comment on Duncan’s remarks.

Recent polling has suggested a majority of Scots would now back a Yes vote if a referendum was held.

Just last week, a YouGov survey found that 53% would now back independence, up two points since January and the highest ever recorded by the firm.

Polls are also suggesting the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon could win a thumping majority at next year’s elections.

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