First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s latest push for a second referendum on independence for Scotland is the last thing the country needs now, according to Borders MP David Mundell.
The Scottish National Party leader launched what she described as a consultation exercise in Stirling today, saying she would be seeking views on Britain’s exit from the European Union as well as independence via a survey and nationwide town hall meetings over the next three months.
Ms Sturgeon claimed ner campaign would be a new debate and not just a rerun of the ideas discussed ahead of the 2014 poll that saw Scots vote by 55% to 45% in favour of remaining part of the UK.
Ms Sturgeon, addressing a meeting of SNP MSPs and councillors, said a “double whammy” of “seismic events” in the form of the Brexit vote and the Labour Party’s current troubles had changed the political landscape, paving the way for a second independence poll, something she believes is now “highly likely”.
She said all polls held since 2014 had shown increased backing for independence, adding: “I suspect support for independence will be even higher if it becomes clear it is the best or only way to protect our interests.”
“There can be no doubt that Brexit raises afresh the issue of independence, but there are two truths that we must never forget,” she said.
“First, Scotland will only become independent when a majority of people choose it. There are no shortcuts. We still have to make the case and win the argument.
“And second, important though the issue of EU membership is, the case for independence is about more than that.
“We want to understand in detail how people feel about Europe, Brexit and independence.
“We want to know the concerns people have and the questions they want answered. We want to build, if we can, a consensus on the way ahead.”
The SNP administration is already drawing up legislation for a fresh independence ballot, but Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have all vowed to oppose it.
The Scottish Conservatives have launched an online petition against a second vote, and Mr Mundell, MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale as well as being Scottish Secretary, is urging Ms Sturgeon to abandon her campaign.
“The last thing Scotland needs is another drawn-out debate on independence,” he said. “People in Scotland do not want another divisive referendum.
“Nicola Sturgeon should take the idea off the table and concentrate on the issues that people really care about.
“Constant talk of a second referendum is creating uncertainty that is damaging our economic prospects.
“And in the past few days, the Scottish Government’s own deficit figures have highlighted the huge advantages of being able to pool and share resources across the whole UK.
“They showed the UK is the vital union for Scotland, not the EU.”
Fellow Tory John Lamont, MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, agreed, saying: “The First Minister has shown today that she is prepared to ignore the priorities of the Borders in pursuit of her own narrow nationalist agenda.
“If she was really listening, she would know that most of us don’t want to go back to another divisive referendum. We want Scotland to move on.
“If she was really listening, she would know that rehashing the referendum debate will only add a further cloud of uncertainty over Scotland’s future at the time when we need a government dedicated to security and stability.
“The First Minister is putting the interests of her party ahead of the interests of Scotland by cynically using the EU referendum result to try to create yet more division.
“I will continue to stand up for the vast majority of residents of the Borders who don’t want another divisive referendum.
“My party’s focus will be to demand that this increasingly-arrogant nationalist government gets back to the day job it was elected to do – to improve our schools, our hospitals and to create jobs.”