BORIS Johnson has told Nicola Sturgeon that he “cannot agree that now is the time” for another independence referendum.

In what the First Minister suggested might be one of “his last acts,” the Prime Minister wrote to the SNP leader to say he would not agree to a Section 30 order to transfer the powers from Westminster to Holyrood to allow a legally watertight vote. 

The letter was a response to a request made by Ms Sturgeon last week when she set out her “route-map” to independence.

She told MSPs her clear preference remained UK Government cooperation and a re-run of the process used for the 2014 vote. 

Despite his government collapsing, with, at the time of going to print, 36 of his ministers resigning, the Prime Minister told Ms Sturgeon: “I have carefully considered the arguments you set out for a transfer of power from the UK Parliament to the Scottish Parliament to hold another referendum on independence.

“As our country faces unprecedented challenges at home and abroad, I cannot agree that now is the time to return to a question, which was clearly answered by the people of Scotland in 2014.”

The Herald:

He added: “Our shared priorities must be to respond effectively to the global cost of living challenge, to support our NHS and public services as they recover from the huge disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic, and to play our leading part in the international response to Russian aggression in Ukraine.

"These are common challenges across the United Kingdom, which deserve our full attention.

“People rightly expect the UK and Scottish governments to work collaboratively in their best interests – and that is what we are doing, as is evidenced by our productive call on Monday evening.

"We are co-operating on measures to ease the cost of living, and I hope we will soon have the chance, alongside colleagues from the Welsh government and the Northern Ireland Executive, to discuss further action at the next Prime Minister and heads of devolved government council.

“On Covid-19, we are maintaining the close collaboration begun during the acute phase of the pandemic, as we continue to navigate the next phase.

"On Ukraine, I am grateful for your ongoing support for the UK’s response to Putin’s brutality.

"The Scottish Government is making a significant contribution to our humanitarian response, through the innovative devolved government-sponsor route in our Homes for Ukraine scheme.

“The Scottish Government’s contribution of £65m to our further military support for Ukraine will help our gallant allies continue their fight.

"Moreover, our ministerial colleagues are strengthening and deepening their co-operation at all levels through the new inter-ministerial groups.

“On all fronts, we stand to achieve so much more for the people we serve by continuing to work together as partners.”

The First Minister took to Twitter to say that there would be a vote. 

She said: "Just received this from Johnson (one of his last acts as PM). To be clear, Scotland will have the opportunity to choose independence - I hope in a referendum on 19 October 2023 but, if not, through a General Election. Scottish democracy will not be a prisoner of this or any PM."

Responding, Scottish Labour constitution spokesperson Sarah Boyack said: “The people of Scotland are being failed by an SNP government at Holyrood that is obsessed with separation and an imploding and corrupt Tory government at Westminster.

"Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon are two sides of the same coin.

"Neither the Tories nor the SNP are focused on tackling the cost of living crisis or rebuilding our services from the pandemic, and both are damaging the future of devolution."

Last week, as part of her route map, Ms Sturgeon asked the Lord Advocate to seek a ruling from the Supreme Court on Holyrood holding Indyref2 without Westminster’s consent.

If the Court says Holyrood lacks the power to do so, then Ms Sturgeon said she would use the general election expected in 2024 as a ‘de facto referendum’ and try to start independence negotiations with London if the SNP win a majority of votes cast.

Most legal experts believe asking the Supreme Court for a ruling is unlikely to succeed, as the Union is reserved to Westminster in the 1998 Scotland Act underpinning devolution.

Last week, as part of her route map, Ms Sturgeon asked Lord Advocate, Dorothy Bain to seek a ruling from the Supreme Court on Holyrood holding Indyref2 without Westminster’s consent.

However, on Tuesday, it emerged that the top law officer did "not have the necessary degree of confidence" that the government would be successful. 

Speaking to Scottish journalists yesterday morning, Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack said he was “not surprised” by the Lord Advocate’s unease. 

“The Scotland Act is crystal clear. My Advocate General for Scotland, the current one and the previous one, Lord Keen, were always very clear to me that the constitution was wholly reserved – there's an emphasis on the word wholly there -  to the Parliament in Westminster.

"So it doesn't come as any great surprise to me that the Lord Advocate’s taken that position.”

Asked about what would happen if the SNP ran a de-facto referendum, and won more than 50 per cent of the popular vote, he said: “General elections aren’t for that purpose. General elections are about a myriad of issues as we know and Nicola Sturgeon can no more put in her manifesto that she’s going to remove Trident from the Clyde which is entirely reserved - which she’s done in the past but she’s never removed Trident from the Clyde - than she can put in her manifesto she’s going to break up the United Kingdom.

“That isn’t how general elections work and if the Supreme Court has already said that’s out of scope I think people will draw their own conclusions.”