Alister Jack says any referendum without UK Government approval would be ‘illegal’
The Secretary of State for Scotland has ruled out another vote without the poll being signed off by Westminster after Mike Russell, the SNP president and constitution secretary, suggested a poll could be held before Christmas.
Appearing on Politics Scotland, Mr Jack insisted a section 30 order would have to be agreed for another referendum.
He said: “I‘m afraid the constitution says it is a reserved matter. It would be an illegal referendum, let’s be clear about that.
“The SNP’s own White Paper in 2014 talked about once in a generation. We can’t go into a process of neverendnums until eventually they get one, they win.
“We’re in a global pandemic, we’re going to have a double-dip recession the way things are going.
“It is about recovering our economy as one United Kingdom and after saving lives with this vaccine, saving livelihoods.”
Mr Jack’s comments come one week on from Mr Russell publishing an 11-point plan for independence that would see the Scottish Government legislate for another referendum if Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to refuse one.
According to reports, Mr Russell is said to have added: “I think it’s really impossible to say when it will be.
“I hope very soon, but I think it is dependent upon the pandemic subsiding.
“Best practice for referendums suggests that six months should expire between the legislation and the referendum.
“That six months is because electoral administrators need time to put in systems, but I do hope the new Parliament moves without too much delay to that.”
The dismissal came during the same interview that Mr Jack compared the Prime Minister visiting Scotland to a general meeting troops on the front line.
He said: "It's essential for the PM of the UK to get out around the UK and see what's happening on the front line in the fight against Covid.
“In any battle, the general should go to the front line and hear from those troops fighting, in this case the virus, exactly the issues they are facing.
“It’s also morale boosting what he does. He thanked the troops who are rolling out the vaccine.
"He went to the Lighthouse Lab, which is doing all the Covid tests for Scotland and the north of England.
“The PM was travelling in a Covid safe way, everyone was tested. It's very important for him to visit all parts of the UK.
“It was a very successful visit and it’s absolutely right that the Prime Minister gets to the front line.”
Mr Johnson visited Scotland on Thursday where he suggested another referendum was not what the people of Scotland wanted.
The PM said: “The whole UK is going through a pandemic. I think what the people of the UK want to see is everybody focusing on beating that pandemic, which we are, rolling out the vaccine, and getting ready to bounce back from that pandemic and have the strongest possible economic recovery.
“I think people also can see everywhere in the UK the visible benefits of our wonderful union.”
Responding to Mr Russell’s claim that a independence referendum could be staged six months after May’s Holyrood election, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “Yet again we see the SNP’s selfish intent to plunge Scotland into the chaos, uncertainty and division of another referendum.
“Even to suggest this could take place before Christmas is not only reckless and irresponsible, but will damage Scotland’s recovery.
“Michael Russell also makes the arrogant assumption of the SNP winning a majority at Holyrood in May.
“The only way to put a brake on this dangerous obsession is to back the Scottish Conservatives who will ensure our sole focus is on dealing with the pandemic and rebuilding Scotland.”
Responding to his comments, SNP Deputer Leader Keith Brown compared the UK Government to Donald Trump.
He said: “The Tories sound more rattled by the day and it's clear they are completely out of ideas and excuses.
"Trying to block a democratic mandate is an indefensible and untenable position – the bottom line is the Tories are panicking as they run scared of a referendum they fear they will lose.
"It's not for Alister Jack, or his boss Boris Johnson, to deny the people of Scotland the chance to determine their own future.
"That choice belongs to the people of Scotland and any Trump-like attempt to deny that would be utterly undemocratic – and would not hold."
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