JOHN Major’s call for indyref2 to go ahead – as long as it’s conditional on a confirmatory indyref3 – has gone down like a bucket of cold sick with his Tory colleagues.
On Monday night, the former prime minister cautioned Boris Johnson against rejecting a
request from Nicola Sturgeon for a section order.
Saying no would, he warned, only “help the separatist case”.
In a speech to Middle Temple in London, Major called on the Johnson Government to “engage, coax, encourage, and examine every possible route to find an arrangement that will obtain a majority for union.”
He said: “The choice for the UK Government is either to agree the referendum can take place – or to refuse to permit it. Both options come with great risk. But the lessons of Brexit may offer a way ahead.
“The Westminster Government could agree for an independence referendum to take place, on the basis of two referenda. The first to vote upon the principle of negotiations, and the second upon the outcome of them.
“The purpose of the second referendum would be that Scottish electors would know what they were voting for, and be able to compare it to what they now have.”
Aberdeenshire West Tory MP Andrew Bowie was unconvinced: “Unlike some, our focus is not on thoughts of future referendums, but on rebuilding after Covid, making devolution work for all and uniting our country,” he tweeted.
“We respect the 2014 referendum result. Let’s end the division. Let’s come together. Let’s move on.”
Michael Forsyth, who was secretary of state for Scotland in Major’s Cabinet, said his former boss’s “musings about two votes on independence is the last thing the Scottish economy needs”.
Writing in The Spectator, he said: “Appeasing the separatists is a disastrous policy and can only strengthen their cause. The 2014 referendum was promised as a once in a generation opportunity to decide the independence question.
“Does anyone seriously believe that the SNP will ever give up on their zeal for an independent Scotland?”
Meanwhile, the Tories could be set to “call the SNP’s bluff” and agree to a “surprise” second independence referendum in the winter of next year, Unionist sources have told the BBC.
According to a report on the Today programme, there is a “high-risk temptation” for some in Whitehall to try and “force a vote on the SNP before they actually want to move, to use the power of surprise”.
However, other sources told the broadcaster that this proposal had been “rejected in very strong terms by figures who would be involved in actually making such high stakes decisions”.
“It’s insane” said one.