ALISTER Jack has backtracked on his suggestion that there could be no second independence referendum for 40 years, claiming he was speaking “jocularly”.

The Scottish Secretary said he now regarded 25 years as the minimum period, based on the SNP’s claim before the 2014 vote that it was a once-in-a-generation event. 

He claimed he only mentioned 40 years becauser a TV interviewer had “raised an eyebrow” at him.

Mr Jack provoked SNP outrage last week after saying in an interview with BBC Scotland’s Glenn Campbell the generation wait for Indyref2 could be 25 or 40 years.

Nicola Sturgeon linked it to Donald Trump losing the US election.

She tweeted: “As we’re seeing across the Atlantic just now, politicians who rage against democracy don’t prevail. Let’s not dignify this rubbish.”

Appearing at the Scotland Land & Estates virtual annual conference today, Mr Jack was asked about his comment and about Sir John Major’s plan for a double referendum vote. 

Sir John, the Tory Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997, said this week there could be two votes on independence - one on the principle, and then, if there was Yes, a second on the deal.

Mr Jack said: “On a generation, I said 25 years to Glenn Campbell, and then he raised an eyebrow, so I said to him, slightly jocularly, or 40, but certainly not six and certainly not 10.

“But 25 years, whenever I’ve looked at what a generation is, it seems to be between 25 and 30  years, and I’m settling on 25.

“Once in a generation was mentioned many times in the SNP’s White Paper for the independence referendum and that’s why I refer back to it.

“As regards John Major, I read his speech. I don’t agree with him, you won’t be surprised to hear.

“I stand by a generation. I think we should focus ion recovery from the Covid pandemic.

“We’re going to see, probably, a double-dip recession.

“There’s a huge amount of work to do to rebuild ourselves up to be the fifth biggest economy in the world. We can get ourselves back up there. 

“We need to be focused entirely on that, because that is all about jobs and livelihoods.”

He went on: “Having taken these measures to save lives, we now have to recognise that we have to save livelihoods going forward.

“I think when people go to bed at night they worry about their job or their health or their children’s education

“Independence is at six or seven on the list of what people’s concerns are.

“I think it’s just an unnecessary distraction, and I will be pressing the case that we carry on rebuilding our British economy as one United Kingdom using the might of the Treasury.”