The challenge Nicola Sturgeon faces in delivering a second independence referendum by 2021 was laid bare last night as the UK government insisted it would not allow a vote.
And just one-fifth of Scots surveyed in a new poll said it was their preference to hold the referendum in the next two years in a result suggesting the high level of uncertainty over the timing.
UK Cabinet Office minister David Lidington used a visit to Glasgow yesterday to reiterate that Theresa May would not acquiesce with the First Minister’s plan to hold indyref2 before the next Scottish Parliamentary elections in two years’ time.
The MP was speaking just hours before a new survey, commissioned by Scotland in Union, revealed that not having a further independence referendum was the most popular choice among those questioned on when another vote should be held.
The Survation poll on the possible timing of a further ballot found 34 per cent of respondents said there should not be a referendum.
The SNP leader’s plan of holding a referendum within two years was the second most popular choice, with 21 per cent of respondents in favour. A total of 17 per cent want another referendum in the future, but not within the next decade. While 10 per cent want one within the next two to five years, 9 per cent want one within the next five to ten years and 8 per cent did not know.
The online survey asked the opinion of 1,012 adults across Scotland.
The First Minister told MSPs on Wednesday that new legislation would be brought forward at Holyrood by the end of the year, which would provide the framework for a second vote. But any prospect of the UK government repeating the granting of a Section 30 order, which would allow Scottish ministers to hold a legally binding vote, was ruled out by Mr Lidington.
“We don’t see any evidence that there is a demand from the people of Scotland to review the decision they took in 2014,” he said. “That referendum was said at the time to settle matters for a generation.
“We don’t see that a Section 30 order is called for. I don’t see how it would help put right problems with Scottish schools and hospitals.
“Devolution in Scotland has given many additional powers to the Scottish Parliament and some of those powers have not even be used. So I think there is plenty more that can be done in terms of the Scottish Government using the powers that are already there.”
Asked if he would rule out granting a Section 30 order before 2021, the minister said: “We have made it very clear we don’t think that is justified.”
The First Minister indicated the Scottish Government would hold off requesting a Section 30 order. While Mrs May’s administration has ruled out granting one, the Prime Minister is widely expected to stand down in the coming months if a Brexit deal can be secured. Mr Lidington refused to speculate on whether a new Tory government would be more likely to grant the order. The minister’s remarks were seized on by the SNP, with the party’s Westminster leader describing them as an “arrogant diktat”.
Ian Blackford said: “Scotland’s future cannot and will not be decided by the arrogant diktat of this shambles of a Tory government, which has been rejected by Scottish voters at every election and which is soon likely to be out of office.
“Whatever people’s views on independence, a strong majority of people back the Scottish Parliament’s right to determine the nation’s future.
“Overwhelmingly, it is Holyrood – not Westminster – which the people of Scotland believe should have the right to decide this country’s democratic path.
“The Westminster system is broken beyond repair and does not serve Scotland’s interests – something now conceded at senior levels in the Scottish Tory ranks.”
But the Scottish Conservatives said the new polling proved there was no demand for another referendum.
The Survation poll found more people were in favour of Scotland remaining in the UK than leaving. Asked if a referendum was held on the question “should Scotland remain in the United Kingdom or leave the United Kingdom?”, 61 per cent said they would vote remain and 39 per cent said they would vote leave.
More respondents (43 per cent) said leaving the UK would be worse for Scotland’s economy than Brexit, while 30 per cent thought it would be better. A further 14 per cent said it would be no better or worse and 13 per cent said they did not know.
Scottish Conservative chief whip Maurice Golden said: “No matter what the SNP says, support for independence simply hasn’t risen since 2014.
“That’s all the evidence Nicola Sturgeon should need to take this threat off the table.
“But instead she ploughs on, ensuring Scotland is subjected to yet more division and uncertainty.”