Nicola Sturgeon's Cabinet sidesteps indyref2 issue

Nicola Sturgeon's Cabinet failed to discuss what the Scottish Government should do about a second independence referendum when it met for the first time since the General Election.

Nicola Sturgeon campaigning during the election. Picture: PA

The First Minister has faced calls to ditch her plans for another vote following the loss of 21 SNP seats last Thursday.

Ms Sturgeon has admitted that the prospect of another independence vote was a factor in the SNP’s dramatic decline and has said she would reflect on her indyref2 policy.

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But at her first meeting with her senior ministerial team since the election, the subject was not even discussed.

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At the post Cabinet briefing, the First Minister’s spokesman was asked if Ms Sturgeon’s pledge to reflect on her referendum demand had been mentioned during the meeting and if she intended to go ahead with a Referendum Bill..

The spokesman said: “I’ll allow the First minister to take forward her views on that in due course. As she said on Friday after the election, she is going to reflect on the election outcome and she will come back on that in due course.”

When pressed directly on whether another referendum was mentioned in Cabinet, the spokesman said: “There was no discussion.”

“There was a discussion on the outcome of the election and the way it related to Brexit. There was no specific discussion of a referendum.”

He added: “There was no specific discussion on the referendum issue.”

Before the election, Ms Sturgeon argued that the SNP winning a majority north of the border would reinforce her mandate for a second referendum. She said such a result would act as a “triple lock” when combined with the Scottish election result and the pro-referendum vote at Holyrood.

Despite losing seats, the SNP did emerge as the largest Scottish party in the House of Commons.

When asked about the triple lock, Ms Sturgeon’s spokesman said: That was the outcome of the election. The condition that was set out in the manifesto has been met, but in terms of how things are taken forward, I’m not going to pre-empt anything the First Minister will say on this.”

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said Ms Sturgeon should remove the referendum threat.

Mr Carlaw said: “We can only hope in the absence of any independence discussion, ministers instead addressed the Scottish Government’s terrible domestic record on devolved matters.

“But the reality is, until Nicola Sturgeon takes the threat of another referendum off the table, no-one will believe it’s not her priority.

“Separation has been the centrepiece of her personal agenda, and its absence from discussions at cabinet is evidence of her complete denial on the issue.”

Ms Sturgeon’s Cabinet did discuss playing a part in ensuring an alternative to a hard Brexit emerges following the General Election.

The Cabinet underlined its commitment to keeping Scotland in the single market.

“Anything short of that, immediately takes you into hard Brexit territory,” the First Minister’s spokesman said.