Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has dismissed opinion polls after the SNP pressed him over the apparent popularity of Scottish independence among EU citizens.
Alex Salmond, the SNP’s International Affairs and Europe spokesman, revelled in YouGov polling which suggested the UK Government is unpopular across the continent while the idea of an independent Scotland as an EU member enjoys support.
The former first minister also teased Mr Hammond about his future, hinting the Tory frontbencher could soon be chancellor after Theresa May’s forthcoming Cabinet reshuffle.
But Mr Hammond advised MPs that recent weeks had shown the importance of not reading polls - after voters backed Britain leaving the EU despite polling companies predicting otherwise.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Salmond told Mr Hammond: “Have you seen the poll at the weekend across European countries from YouGov which showed two things - one, that the UK Government was deeply unpopular in every other European country, and secondly there were massive majorities of the public in every country surveyed looking forward to an independent Scotland within Europe?”
To SNP cheers, Mr Salmond added: “Why is the UK Government so unpopular and why is Scotland so popular in Europe?”
Mr Hammond replied: “Well, I’d have thought if there was one lesson to take from the events of the last three weeks it was don’t read polls.”
Earlier, Mr Hammond stood by his suggestion that Brexit could take longer to negotiate than the Second World War.
Mr Salmond said: “Scotland is deeply concerned about the personal future of the Foreign Secretary given his apocalyptic statements during the recent referendum.
“For example, when he told Chatham House on March 2 it’d take longer to negotiate than the Second World War.
“So will it take longer to negotiate Brexit than the Second World War and how would any future Chancellor of the Exchequer deal with such uncertainty?”
Mr Hammond replied: “I think the concern is this, and you’ll recognise this - if a future treaty between the United Kingdom and the European Union 27 is deemed to be a mixed competence, it will have to be ratified by 27 national parliaments.
“I think I’m right in saying the shortest time in which that has been done in any EU treaty is just under four years; that’s after taking into account the time it takes to negotiate.”