The UK Government did not comment yesterday on what it would say when Nicola Sturgeon requests a section 30 order, which gives Holyrood the power to call a referendum, but repeated its mantra that a new plebiscite would be “divisive” and cause “uncertainty”.
It also did not issue a formal response to the First Minister’s proposals for Scotland to have a differentiated Brexit deal allowing it to remain in the single market and the UK – a plan the EU have indicated they would be open to.
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Prime Minister Theresa May described Sturgeon’s announcement as “deeply regrettable” and added: “The tunnel vision that the SNP has shown today is deeply regrettable. It sets Scotland on a course for more uncertainty and division, creating huge uncertainty. And this is at a time when the evidence is that the Scottish people, the majority of the Scottish people, do not want a second independence referendum. So, instead of playing politics with the future of our country, the Scottish Government should focus on delivering good government and public services for the people of Scotland. Politics is not a game.”
Nor was there any mention from Labour, the LibDems or Ukip of research findings from the Fraser of Allander Institute which warned a hard Brexit out of the single market would cost Scotland 80,000 jobs over the next decade, reduce wages by £2,000 and cut public spending by up to £1.6 billion by 2020/21. And, of course, no mention of the promise made in the 2014 referendum that only a No vote would ensure Scotland would remain in the EU.
Instead, a spokesman said the UK Government would seek a future partnership with the EU that “works for the whole of the United Kingdom”.
“We have been working closely with all the devolved administrations – listening to their proposals, and recognising the many areas of common ground, including workers’ rights, the status of EU citizens living in the UK and our security from crime and terrorism,” it said.
“Only a little over two years ago people in Scotland voted decisively to remain part of our United Kingdom in a referendum which the Scottish Government defined as a ‘once in a generation’ vote.
“The evidence clearly shows that a majority of people in Scotland do not want a second independence referendum. Another referendum would be divisive and cause huge economic uncertainty at the worst possible time.
“The Scottish Government should focus on delivering good government and public services for the people in Scotland.”
The UK Labour leader said: “The 2014 Scottish independence referendum was billed as a once in a generation event.
“The result was decisive and there is no appetite for another referendum.
“Labour believes it would be wrong to hold another so soon and Scottish Labour will oppose it in the Scottish Parliament.
“If, however, the Scottish Parliament votes for one, Labour will not block that democratic decision at Westminster.
“If there is another referendum, Labour will oppose independence because it is not in the interests of any part of the country to break up the UK.”
The European Commission indicated an independent Scotland would have to apply to join the EU, rather than automatically being a member.
Ukip’s Scottish MEP David Coburn described the prospect of a second referendum before spring 2019 as “utterly preposterous”.
“The UK will still be in negotiations with the EU at this time. The SNP seem to wish to cause maximum disruption, uncertainty and overall mayhem,” said Coburn.
“In 2014 the Scottish people decided decisively to remain British, in 2016 less people voted to remain in the EU than voted to be British in 2014.” The Ukip politician maintained that the SNP do not want real independence, but a “plastic indy”.
He said: “They would rather be ruled from Frankfurt and Berlin than Edinburgh and London.”
The Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Labour and the Liberal Democrats all vowed to oppose the First Minister’s proposals.
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson tweeted: “Nicola Sturgeon has today chosen the path of further division and uncertainty. We will vote against any request for a Section 30 next week.”
Kezia Dugdale, the leader of Scottish Labour, said: “Scotland is already divided enough. We do not want to be divided again, but that is exactly what another independence referendum would do. With our country facing all of the uncertainty around the Tories’ reckless plans for a hard Brexit, the last thing we need is even more uncertainty and division.”
Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie said it was “the worst possible result for jobs, trade and security”, saying it risks leaving Scotland outside of the EU and the UK