IndyRef2 decision can't be 'put off forever', warns senior Tory MP

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A decision on whether to allow the Scottish Government to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence cannot be “put off forever", a senior Conservative MP has warned.

Andrew Mitchell, who served in the Cabinet under David Cameron, said Boris Johnson's Government would not be able to resist forever "the strong argument" being made by Nicola Sturgeon's party following their election victory north of the Border last week.

A pro-independence rally takes place in George Square, Glasgow, in October. Picture: John Devlin

A pro-independence rally takes place in George Square, Glasgow, in October. Picture: John Devlin

Earlier today the SNP leader launched a 38-page document entitled "Scotland's Right to Choose", and announced that not only would she ask for a Section 30 Order - the time-limited transfer of powers to hold a referendum next year - but that the Scotland Act should be permanently changed so future Scottish Government would no longer have to seek Westminster's permission for a vote.

The UK Government has consistently said it will refuse a Section 30 order and that the result of the 2014 referendum must be respected.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, said today that the Scottish Government should concentrate on improving Scotland's hospitals and schools rather than trying to re-run an independence referendum they promised would be a once in a generation event.

READ MORE: Sturgeon demands permanent power to hold referendums
But his Tory colleague accepted the demands for an IndyRef2 would not go away on their own. Speaking on the BBC, Mr Mitchell said: "I think many people in Scotland had hoped that this issue had been put to bed for a generation.

"There were many factors in play in the Scottish result. But not everyone, unfortunately, accepts that you can't go having these referenda on a very regular basis.

"But let's assume that argument is not accepted. In the end, we will have to have an argument about this, probably after Brexit has taken place and everyone can see what the new settlement is for the UK.

"If you are asking me whether or not if the UK Government can put off forever the demands of the Scottish Nationalist Party in government in Edinburgh, my answer is no. Because if the British Government says we're not going to do it, the Scottish Government has the power to set up its own referendums, with all the panoply of the Scottish state, and if the argument for the Union is not put, that will go through, and we will be in a very difficult position."

Asked if Boris Johnson's current position could not stand in the long term, Mr Mitchell said: "I think it will stand for now, and I think it will stand until the end of the Brexit process and the new settlement is clear.

"I think it will be extremely difficult for the British Government to resist the strong argument from the government in Edinburgh that they want the people to have the choice again - they can resit it for a bit, but it would not be possible to resist it forever."

Speaking after Ms Sturgeon signalled her intention to seek the legal power to hold a second independence referendum, Mr Gove said: 'We had a referendum in 2014 and at the time everyone agreed that the result of that referendum would be agreed for a generation.

"Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond signed the Edinburgh Declaration on the basis that this referendum would be held and we wouldn’t have another one for a whole generation to come.

'So I think on that basis we should respect the referendum result and politicians across the United Kingdom should be concentrating on the issues that really matter to people: improving the NHS, fighting crime and helping to improve education."