BORIS Johnson will block a second independence referendum even if the SNP wins a Holyrood majority next year, the Scottish Secretary has said.

Alister Jack said a Tory government at Westminster would refuse to grant Holyrood the power to hold Indyref2 for a generation or even for Nicola Sturgeon’s lifetime.

He told the BBC Scotland’s Sunday Politics that position would not change even if the SNP repeated their electoral feat of 2011 and won a second Holyrood majority in 2021.

He said: “We do not think that 2021 is the time to start having more referendums.”

This is a U-turn on his publicly stated position in November, when he said an SNP majority in 2021 would constitute a “democratic mandate” for Indyref2 negotiations.

Mr Jack also said it was “unacceptable” for Holyrood to have permanent referendum powers, as it would plunge Scotland into a series of constitutional “neverendums”.

He said he had advised Mr Johnson to deliver a “rebuttal” to Ms Sturgeon, something she herself has said she expects.

THe SNP said his flip-flopping on the issue was "embarrassing".

In the wake of the SNP’s general election gains last month, Ms Sturgeon has insisted she has a mandate to hold Indyref2 later this year in order to revisit the No vote of 2014.

She has formally requested a temporary transfer of power to Holyrood to allow this to happen, known as a Section 30 order.

However she has also suggested the 1998 Scotland Act could be overhauled to give Holyrood permanent powers to hold constitutional referendums when it chose.

The Prime Minister is expected to rebuff both suggestions within days.

Mr Jack said: “A Section 30 order is a constitutional matter. What the SNP have asked for in the letter Nicola Sturgeon has sent is the right to choose when the referendum should be.

“We are standing up for the people who are voting for the Unionist parties.

“It’s about once in a generation, once in a lifetime. That’s what people voted for.

“I think that we’ve had 10 years where Scotland’s been in discussion or having referendums.

“It hasn’t done our economy any good. We’re slower than the English economy. It’s not good for jobs.”

Pressed on whether Mr Johnson would refuse to give the Scottish Government a Section 30 order even if the SNP won an absolute majority on a manifesto promise of Indyref2, Mr Jack said: “Constitutionally we are coming out of the European Union. We think what’s right now is that we have a period where we settle down.

“We do not think that 2021 is the time to start having more referendums. They’re very divisive for our society. I think the time now is for us to pull together as one United Kingdom.”

Asked what the SNP would have to do to get a mandate for Indyref2, the Scottish Secretary said: “Let’s see the benefits of Brexit. They’ve talked Brexit down as a disaster. Let’s see if the world’s still spinning on the 1st of February and how things can be good for Scotland.”

Asked if his message to Nicola Sturgeon’s was that her successor or successor’s successor would have to wait for Indyref2, he said: “Yeah, a generation or a lifetime has passed. Let’s see the benefits of Brexit for the United Kingdom first.”

On Ms Sturgeon’s request for permanent referendum powers, he went on: “That is unacceptable. I’ve written to the Prime Minister on this subject this week.

“He’ll be replying very soon to Nicola Sturgeon’s letter of the 19th of December.

“It’s absolutely the case that constitutional matters are reserved. They must remain with the UK parliament, the same way defence must remain, the same way foreign policy must remain.

"It would be wrong for us to give the right to the Scottish Parliament to set the referendums and the context and the timings whenever they wanted for the simple reason that Scotland would then be plunged into neverendums, and that’s not good for us, not good for the economy. “

Asked if that was what the Prime Minister would tell Ms Sturgeon this week, Mr Jack said: “Nicola Sturgeon has said she fully expects a rebuttal from the Prime Minister to her letter.

“My advice to him is certainly to say that.”


He went on: “We have a mandate to say No to a second independence referendum because the Edinburgh Agreement [paving the way for the 2014 referendum] was signed in 2012 by Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond.

"In that agreement it said both parties will uphold the result of the referendum and respect it. They haven’t respected the result of the 2014 referendum and they haven’t respected the result of the 2016 one.”

In fact, the Edinburgh Agreement does not include a cast-iron commitment by the Scottish Government to uphold and respect the result, but a more ambiguous aspiration that the result will be fair and clear enough to command respect.

The text states the UK and Scottish “governments are agreed that the referendum should… deliver a fair test and a decisive expression of the views of people in Scotland and a result that everyone will respect”.

The governments also “look forward to a referendum that is legal and fair producing a decisive and respected outcome”.

But the SNP could still argue that, despite those high hopes, respect for the result has proved ephemeral because of Brexit.

Mr Jack’s ruling out of a Section 30 order even if there is another SNP majority at Holyrood is a complete reversal of Mr Jack’s position in November.

Then, he was asked if the SNP winning most of Scotland’s 59 seats in the general election would give it a democratic mandate for a Section 30 order, and replied: “No.”

Asked why not, he said: “Because the democratic mandate for a Section 30 order is a matter for 2021. We’ll see whether or not the Scottish National Party get a majority then.

“I mean the Scottish National Party - not in collaboration with other parties, not in any alliances - but a Scottish National Party majority, which is what Ruth Davidson pointed out some months ago.”

In June last year, Ms Davidson, while still leader of the Scottish Tories, said an outright majority would be needed to begin negotiations on Indyref2.

She told the BBC: "If she [Ms Sturgeon] puts it in a [Holyrood] manifesto that she's going to hold another referendum and she wins a majority outright, then she can negotiate with the

UK government in the same way as happened last time.”

Asked about his previous comment today, Mr Jack falsely claimed he had prefixed it with “Ruth Davidson has said”.

He said: “In that interview, I made it very clear that it was a once in a lifetime, once in a generation, vote that we had, and I didn’t feel a generation or a lifetime had passed.

“I think we have to take 2021 as a campaign for the Conservatives and the other Unionist parties in Scotland to press hard as they can to press the case for the Union.”

SNP Shadow Scottish Secretary Mhairi Black said Mr Jack’s U-turn was “embarrassing”.

She said: “The SNP won a landslide victory in last month’s general election - winning 80% on a mandate for an independence referendum, while the Tories lost more than half their MPs.

“They stood on a platform of stopping Scotland’s right to choose and were humiliated at the polls - the Tories have no mandate whatsoever to block Scottish democracy.

 “Whatever your views on independence, we can all agree that Scotland’s future must be Scotland’s choice – not Boris Johnson’s or his cronies.”

 “Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU and has rejected Brexit at every opportunity. And despite all the bluster from Westminster politicians like Alister Jack, we all know that a fresh referendum on Scotland’s future is in demand.”