Owen Paterson U-turn 'shows Boris Johnson won't be able to stand in way of Scottish independence referendum'

The Owen Paterson scandal shows Boris Johnson "always bows to pressure" and will not be able to stand in the way of a second independence referendum, the depute leader of the SNP has said.

Addressing the party's virtual conference on Friday, Keith Brown insisted the independence campaign is already "well underway".

He pointed to the "scandalous Owen Paterson affair" in Westminster as an example of the Prime Minister U-turning on a previous position.

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The UK Government has repeatedly said it will not agree to a second referendum.

SNP depute leader Keith Brown was addressing the SNP's virtual conference

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Mr Johnson initially wanted to overhaul the standards system when Mr Paterson, a Tory MP, was found to have broken lobbying rules, but changed course after a furious backlash.

Elsewhere, Mr Brown, who is Scotland's justice secretary, said the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow had offered a "tantalising preview of how the world will welcome Scotland to the top table of nations of this world".

He said independence was needed “to invest in our bountiful renewable energy resources, which are the envy of Europe”, adding: “The future of our planet depends on it – and it’s too important to be left to the Tories.”

The MSP told delegates the Holyrood election in May, in which the SNP returned 64 MSPs, delivered "an undeniable mandate for a new independence referendum".

He said the party must aim to replicate this "triumph" in next year's council elections.

Mr Brown said: "Friends, I can tell you this – that independence campaign is well underway.

"And I promise you we will not let up until we win that referendum."

He said campaigners must reach out to undecided voters.

Mr Brown said the Scottish Government was resuming its "crucial work on an updated and detailed prospectus for independence" following a pause during the pandemic.

He said: "That new government work will be essential to help voters make their fully informed choice and we await the delivery of that new prospectus with eager anticipation.”

Mr Brown added: "Conference, earlier this month the world’s eyes were on Scotland as Glasgow hosted COP26.

"And the world was not slow in telling us they loved what they saw.

"Through the exemplary leadership of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, we were given a tantalising preview of how the world will welcome Scotland to the top table of nations of this world.

"But to do that, and do it properly, we need so much more than the constraints of the union.

"We need our independence.”

Mr Brown said: "Coupled with the cast-iron mandate delivered in May – and another thumping triumph in the council elections this coming May – we will continue to pile the pressure on the UK Government over our legitimate demand for a referendum.

"The Johnsons and the Goves of Westminster know they can’t stand in the way of the democratic will of Scotland.

"And what we know is that Boris Johnson always bows to pressure – just look at the scandalous Owen Paterson affair.

"The Prime Minister’s actions speak far louder than words.

"When the Prime Minister had to choose between protecting the integrity of elected office or protecting his friend, he chose to change the rules to protect a colleague.

"And when the pressure came on, he caved in and U-turned again."

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