New Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted there is “no reason” for Scots to have the second independence referendum that Nicola Sturgeon is pushing for.
On his first visit north of the border since becoming Prime Minister, Mr Johnson declared the vote in 2014 had been a “once in a generation event” and public faith in politics would be further damaged if a second such ballot was to take place.
His comments came after the Scottish First Minister warned the new Tory leader’s “hard-line” government was driving the country towards “disaster” by pushing for a no-deal Brexit.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has also made it plain she will not support the UK leaving the European Union without a deal in place – with the issue marking a split between the Tory leadership north and south of the border.
Despite that, Mr Johnson promised he would be “doing everything I can to assist” Ms Davidson to become Scotland’s next first minister in the 2021 Holyrood election.
He hailed her as a “fantastic leader of Scottish Conservatives”, adding: “I am lost in admiration at what she has achieved, I am a massive fan of the way she has taken the argument to those who would destroy our union.”
Following her meeting with the Prime Minister at Holyrood Ms Davidson said: “We had an incredibly constructive meeting.
“We covered a number of areas, talking about Brexit, the need to make sure we can get a deal across the line, and I support the Prime Minister wholeheartedly in getting that deal.
“We talked about how we can continue to have the UK Government deliver in Scotland, for Scots, and how we can build on that delivery, and also how we can continue to take on Nicola Sturgeon and oppose her obsession with another independence referendum.”
Earlier Mr Johnson hit out at the “campaign to destroy the union” from the SNP – and while he refused to unequivocally rule out granting Holyrood permission for a second independence referendum, he said comments that the 2014 ballot was a “once in a generation” event must be respected.
He spoke as he visited the Faslane naval base on the Clyde, where he went on board HMS Victorious, one of the nuclear submarines stationed there.
Asked if he was ruling out a second referendum during his premiership, Mr Johnson said: “It was a once in a generation consultation of the people, we did it in 2014 and the people were assured then that it was a once in a generation consultation.
“I see no reason now for the politicians to go back on that promise.”
The new Prime Minister added: “In 2014 there was a historic vote, I think it was the only one there has been in my lifetime that I can remember, the only vote on Scottish independence that I can remember in my lifetime, and I’m 55, it is the only time it has happened and it was decisive, there was I think at least a 10-point margin.
“Everybody made clear at the time in 2014, even the Scottish Nationalist Party, I seem to recollect, said that this was a once in a generation vote and I think that the confidence of the public in politicians would be undermined yet further if we were to go back on that and hold another referendum.”
Ms Sturgeon, who also met the PM later on Monday, said ahead of the meeting: “The people of Scotland did not vote for this Tory Government, they didn’t vote for this new Prime Minister, they didn’t vote for Brexit and they certainly didn’t vote for a catastrophic no-deal Brexit, which Boris Johnson is now planning for.”
As well as meeting Ms Sturgeon and Ms Davidson, the PM used his visit north to announce a £300 million funding pot for communities in the devolved nations.
Downing Street said the cash was an expansion of the regional Growth Deals, with funding due to go towards deals in Falkirk, the islands and Argyll and Bute in Scotland, as well as Causeway Coast and Glens and Mid South West Northern Ireland, and Mid-Wales.
The Conservative leader has said he wants to ensure no corner of the country is left behind.
He said critics who have dubbed him the last prime minister of the UK were “grossly underestimating the United Kingdom”.
“Our union is the most successful political and economic union in history,” Mr Johnson said.
“We are a global brand and together we are safer, stronger and more prosperous.
“So as we prepare for our bright future after Brexit, it’s vital we renew the ties that bind our United Kingdom.”