BORIS Johnson took the time to write to Nicola Sturgeon and turned down her request for a Section 30 order, despite his cabinet falling apart around him.
The First Minister wrote to the Prime Minister last week, effectively making the request a formality as Downing Street has repeatedly ruled out giving its consent to another independence referendum.
Sturgeon has already referred the question of whether Holyrood can legally legislate on indyref2 to the Supreme Court. If the court decides the Scottish Parliament cannot do so, she intends to use the next general election as a de facto referendum, with a majority of the vote providing a mandate for the SNP.
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As dozens of ministers and ministerial assistants left the UK government on Wednesday and the Prime Minister faced double grilling at PMQs and the Liaison Committee for his handling of Chris Pincher’s allegations, Johnson’s response to Scotland’s First Minister was made public.
“I have carefully considered the arguments you have put forward for a transfer of power from the British Parliament to the Scottish Parliament in order to hold another referendum on independence.
“As our country faces unprecedented challenges at home and abroad, I cannot agree that now is the time to revisit a question that was unequivocally answered by the people of Scotland in 2014.”
He continued: “Our shared priorities must be to respond effectively to the global cost of living challenge, to support our NHS and public services in their recovery from the tremendous disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic and to play our leading role in doing so International Response to Russian Aggression in Ukraine. These are common challenges in the UK that deserve our full attention.
“People have a right to expect the UK and Scottish Governments to work together in their best interests – and as our productive call on Monday night demonstrates, that is exactly what we are doing. We are working together on measures to lower the cost of living and I hope we will soon have an opportunity to join colleagues from the Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive to discuss further measures at the next Prime Minister and the heads of the Devolved Government Council.
“With Covid-19, we continue the close collaboration begun during the acute phase of the pandemic, while continuing to steer the next phase. On Ukraine, I am grateful for your continued support for the UK’s response to Putin’s brutality. The Scottish Government makes a significant contribution to our humanitarian response through the innovative decentralized government sponsorship route in our Homes for Ukraine programme.
“The Scottish Government’s £65m contribution to our continued military support to Ukraine will help our brave allies continue their fight. In addition, our ministerial colleagues are strengthening and deepening their cooperation at all levels through the new interministerial groups.
“We will accomplish so much more for the people we serve on all fronts by continuing to work together as partners.”
Sturgeon responded by suggesting the letter was one of his last acts as Prime Minister as pressure mounted on him to leave.
Two cabinet members, Nadhim Zahawi and Michelle Donelan, who had been appointed less than 24 hours earlier, were reportedly among the group of ministers who called on Johnson to resign.
“I just got this from Johnson (one of his last acts as PM?),” Sturgeon said.
“To be clear, Scotland will have the opportunity to opt for independence – I hope in a referendum on 19 October 2023, but if not by general election. Scottish democracy will not be a prisoner of this or any Prime Minister.”
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The Scottish Government has been asked for comment.
The letter came after the First Minister and Johnson spoke in a brief phone call on Monday in which they discussed “a number of issues”.
In her push for a second referendum, she told the Prime Minister that Holyrood was “ready and willing to negotiate steps to hold another vote” but said that if this were blocked it would not mean voters north of the border “didn’t have that democratic suffrage is denied”.