SCOTLAND’S relationship with the rest of the UK was compared to an unhappy marriage in the Commons yesterday after Tory minister Alister Jack refused to countenance the possibility of indyref2 until 2039 at the earliest.
Speaking in the Commons, the Secretary of State for Scotland told MPs that the Scottish Government’s 2014 white paper on independence had promised “on a number of pages” that the first independence referendum would be “once in a generation”.
The Tory minister was answering after a number of SNP MPs pushed him on his claim last week that there should be no new vote for four decades. “It’s no for a generation,” he told the BBC.
Asked to define a generation, he said: “Is it 25 years or is it 40 years? You tell me. But it’s certainly not six years, nor 10”.
On Tuesday, Jack claimed he was just joking.
The Scotland Secretary said he only mentioned the four-decade wait for a new vote because the BBC journalist interviewing him had “raised an eyebrow”.
However, he said he would be happy with a new referendum 25 years after the first one.
On Wednesday, the SNP’s Pete Wishart sarcastically told Jack he was doing “a fantastic job of strengthening the Union”.
He added: “Support for independence is at a historic high and has been at a sustained majority all year. Can I say to him that saying no to a majority in Scotland is only going to drive support for independence even higher, but apparently he was only joking when he said that there would be no indyref for 40 years, just after John Major said there would be two referendums in the next few years.
“Of course, he’s renowned for his legendary wit and humour, but the Scottish people are not finding this democracy denial funny anymore.
“So what’s the difference between denying a majority in the Trump White House and denying a majority in the Scotland Office?”
Jack replied: “To be quite simple, my belief is that we stick to the referendum and respect it from 2014.
“It was very clear the SNP said at the time it was once in a generation. I don’t believe we should go into a process of neverendums which are divisive, unsettling, bad for jobs in Scotland.
“We should respect democracy and that’s what I’m doing. Democracy that was handed out by the Scottish people in 2014.”
Philippa Whitford said Jack seemed to think that the way to strengthen the Union is by “forcing a hard Brexit on Scotland against our will, taking an axe to devolution with the Internal Market Bill and denying any democratic choice on Scotland’s future until adults like me are dead”.
“On that basis, does he think the best recipe for a happy marriage is to lock up the wife, take away our cheque book and just keep refusing a divorce?”
“I think it’s quite straightforward. I think people should respect democracy,” the Tory replied.
He added: “We are respecting democracy. We are saying we’re acknowledging ‘once in a generation’.
“We don’t believe Scotland should be thrown under the uncertainty of neverendums. It’s very straightforward. A generation by any calculation is 25 years and frankly you just have to accept that and focus on what matters which is recovering from this pandemic us all pulling together.“
SNP MP Mhairi Black asked Jack where it said in the Edinburgh Agreement that there could not be another referendum.
He said: “It was mentioned many times in the white paper that the SNP Government produced in advance of that referendum, once in a generation was mentioned on a number of pages.”
The Edinburgh Agreement did not commit to the referendum being a once-in-a-generation event.