The UK Government has been warned against “imposing a fatwa” and blocking a second independence referendum, “however unwelcome” such a vote may be.
Former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said Theresa May’s government should not obstruct another ballot on independence if this was “being pushed” by the SNP.
He also argued the Prime Minister may not be the best person to lead a campaign to keep the United Kingdom together, saying she may not be politically agile enough to deal with a fast-moving referendum campaign.
The former Liberal Democrat leader spoke out on the prospect of a second vote on independence ahead of a speech at his party’s Scottish conference in Perth.
Asked whether Westminster should refuse to grant Holyrood the power to hold a legally-binding vote, Mr Clegg told journalists: “I think it would be very difficult for any government of any composition in London to try and impose a fatwa on any move towards a referendum if that was something that was being pushed - however unwelcome it is, and indeed it is unwelcome to the Liberal Democrats.
“Do we think a solution to a country careering towards hard Brexit is to have another divisive and all-absorbing referendum about whether the United Kingdom survives or not? No, we don’t.”
Mr Clegg refused to offer any “guesswork” about what would happen if Scots were given another chance to vote on independence
“I would have thought all sides would want to have a good look at how campaigns were fought in the past and what can be improved and changed from those previous experiences, but that’s stating the bleeding obvious,” he said
“No contest is going to be a carbon copy of a previous one, it will be very much shaped by the stories, the personalities, the issues that pop up.”
Mr Clegg, who worked with Mrs May while in coalition government with the Conservatives, described her as a “thorough” and “methodical politician”.
He added: “There’s a certain rigidity, I don’t think she’d ever call herself a particularly agile, innovative politician.
“Her strengths are when she is in control of all the facts and can methodically go through them. She’s not a politician who I sense is very comfortable when she has to react to events.
“It has strengths and weaknesses, it has strengths because it is a very deliberate, methodical way of working, but the weakness which may well manifest itself in both election campaigns and referenda campaigns is these are very fast-moving events in which you don’t control all the factors.”