The Scottish Secretary claimed the SNP’s rousing election results were not necessarily an endorsement of independence, suggesting it could even have been people voting for a “free bicycle”.
His claims came during a session that saw the Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross repeatedly clash with the chair of the committee SNP MP Pete Wishart
He said: “The first thing I would say is that an independence referendum was one of many things in the manifesto and voters as we saw in the last BBC debate aren't necessarily voting for Nicola Sturgeon because they want independence and she confirmed that .
“I would say that less than a third of the Scottish electorate voted for nationalist parties, I think the figure was 31 percent.
“Looking at the last 10 opinion polls I come to the opinion that there's still a minority of scots in favour of independence and actually when you look at the stats, it's about number eight on people's lists of priorities.
“They've got much far greater concerns at the moment and that's what I think we should be focusing on.
“Not everyone cast their vote because they were voting on a single issue of independence, other things were in there like removing Trident.
“Obviously some people might be voting for the SNP because they wanted free dental care, a free laptop or even a free bicycle for their children, I mean who knows why they would choose to vote SNP but it wasn't all on the back of an independence referendum.
“I maintain that the next five years are best served by two governments working together and delivering on the sea of opportunities that exist in front of us having left the European Union, but also on focusing on the recovery from the pandemic.”
Mr Wishart responded that the issue still had to go to the Scottish people.
He said: Surely the best way to resolve this would be to let the Scottish people decide, surely that’s the only way this can be decided.”
It came in a session that also saw the Scottish Tory leader brand Mr Wishart “inept” in a clash that spilled over into other questions.
He said: “I have to say at the outset, how disappointed people must have been to watch the quite frankly inept and poor chairing of this committee so far by Mr Wishart.
“I think people will understand why members of his own party and across parliament have tried to remove him.”
Mr Wishart responded: “Douglas, there’s no need at all to make attacks on the chair of this committee.
“I’ve been elected by the house to chair this committee. Could you, please, just get on with addressing your questions?
I’m just trying to do my job without personal attacks like that.”
Refusing to back down, the Moray MP added: “When you’re so poor at your job, I will personally attack you because you have talked over witnesses repeatedly.”
Labelling Mr Ross “pathetic”, he retorted: “Will you get on with your poor and inept questions, then, so we can get on with this session?”