Second Scottish independence referendum should not be blocked - Ruth Davidson

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The UK Government should not block a potential second Scottish independence referendum, Ruth Davidson has said, although she would argue against holding one.

The Scottish Conservative leader believes talk of a second referendum is "further destabilising" in the wake of the Brexit vote and that Nicola Sturgeon has acted "prematurely" in discussing the prospect of one.

The SNP manifesto for the 2016 Scottish parliamentary election said a ''significant and a material change'' of the circumstances in which Scotland voted against independence in 2014 could trigger a second referendum.

Scotland's First Minister has already held a series of talks in Brussels with European political leaders aimed at securing Scotland's place in the EU, after voters north of the border backed remain by 62%. She has said a second independence referendum is "clearly an option that requires to be on the table".

On the BBC's Sunday Politics Scotland programme, Ms Davidson was asked about the prospect of a second referendum.

She said: "I have never said it should be denied, I didn't say it the last time either.

"But I believe it's so premature for the First Minister, within three-and-a-half hours of votes being counted last Friday morning, standing up in Bute House and saying she was asking government officials to draw up the necessary legislation for a second independence referendum.

"We don't know what we'd be voting on because there isn't an offer to the UK Government from the EU. I think it's further destabilising in a period of instability already and I think it ill-becomes her.

"We don't know what the options are for Scotland and it's incredibly premature for the First Minister to go down this road."

When asked if the UK Government - which approved the 2014 independence referendum in the Edinburgh Agreement - should allow a future independence vote, Ms Davidson said:  "I would argue as strong as I could that we should stay part of our biggest market and closest friend.

"Constitutionally the UK Government shouldn't block it, no."

Former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish revealed he could back independence in a future vote.

He told Sunday Politics Scotland: "I've said the European issue has strengthened, positively, the case of independence and that I could vote for independence.

"I was devastated last week when we took that catastrophic decision to leave the EU, I think that was a tipping point.

"My other frustration is what on earth can the UK Government, London, the Labour Party or the Conservative Party do to satisfy the aspirations of Scots which wont lead to an independent Scotland?

"Currently the performance has been poor."

He added: "But let me also put a shot across the bows of the SNP - we are not ready for independence, even if that was a reality. We have nation-building to do, we've got questions over the currency and fiscal deficit and what Brexit has shown us is that when you have a minority voting for one thing you create bitterness."

Ms Davidson did not reveal who she is supporting in the UK party leadership contest but said she wants the UK to remain in the EU single market, even if it means immigration policy remains as it is.

She told the BBC show: "One of the reasons why I campaigned for Remain was because I wanted Scottish businesses to be part of a wider free trade area both in the EU but also in the free trade area of the UK as well and what I need to do going forward is chart a course where we stay in both of these so we have the best opportunities for our people.

"I want to stay in the single market. Even if a consequence of that is maintaining free movement of labour, yes."