Gove insists generation must pass before new Scottish independence referendum

Michael Gove has insisted a generation must pass before a second Scottish independence referendum can be considered.

The Cabinet Office minister was pressed by the SNP’s Kenny MacAskill (East Lothian) about the “inevitability” some senior Tories believe there is over another independence poll.

But Mr Gove said six years on from the last referendum is too soon, given SNP leaders had previously described the 2014 ballot as a “once-in-a-generation” event.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack earlier this month suggested a generation could be “25 or 40 years”, although polling has indicated Scots support holding a second referendum if pro-independence MSPs win a majority at Holyrood next year.

Alister Jack
Alister Jack (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Speaking in the Commons, Mr MacAskill said: “Even senior Tories are accepting the inevitability of a second referendum.

“And as (Irish nationalist Charles Stewart) Parnell once said, ‘no man has the right to fix the boundary to the march of a nation’.

“Scots have learned, as the Secretary of State will know from the trickery of 1979 when even the dead were counted against.

“Does the Secretary of State not then realise that the people of Scotland will not accept political chicanery on the number or nature of the question to be asked?”

Kenny MacAskill
Kenny MacAskill (David Cheskin/PA)

Mr Gove replied: “He makes a very, very important point.

“It’s absolutely vital we have confidence in the integrity of our democratic institutions and that’s why the Electoral Commission and other bodies play such an important role.

“But of course it’s also important people can have confidence in the promises made by politicians.

“And it was the case in 2014 that Nicola Sturgeon and other leading Scottish nationalists made the point that that referendum was for a generation.

“Just six years later, I do not believe a generation has passed.”

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