Andrea Leadsom: indyref2 ‘up for negotiation’
Conservative leadership hopeful Andrea Leadsom has broken with party policy and said a second referendum on Scottish independence would be “up for negotiation”.
Launching her bid to become the next prime minister, the former leader of the House of Commons was asked if she would block any request to hold a referendum by the Scottish Government.
The question came after her rivals Sajid Javid and Esther McVey said they “wouldn’t allow” a second vote, while Matt Hancock said “no way”.
At a lunch where she was brandishing a sign which read “Bollocks to Bercow” in a dig at the Commons speaker, Leadsom’s answer was more nuanced.
“In reality all of these things would be up for negotiation,” she said.
“I do believe in sovereignty. I do not think that Scotland should have another independence referendum right now. I don’t think most people in Scotland would want that to happen. But I would never say never.”
Pressed, she added: “The reason I say never say never is because I do not think that there should be another independence referendum in Scotland, I do not think it’s in their interests, but on the other hand I am a big believer in devolution.
“So what I just want to say is I’m not going to stand here and utterly rule it out because I think that is disrespectful, but I would very strongly fight against a second referendum which I don’t think is in the interests of Scotland and it’s definitely not in the interests of the United Kingdom.”
The comments led to accusations of undermining the union.
Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont tweeted: “We should be standing up to Nicola Sturgeon's grandstanding, not giving in to SNP demands to hold another divisive indyref.”
Edinburgh Labour MP Ian Murray said: “This shows that the Tories can’t be trusted to protect Scotland’s place in the Union.
“The majority of people in Scotland don’t want a divisive second independence referendum and have rejected both the nationalism of the SNP and the Tories.
“With Boris Johnson threatening to make Scots workers pay towards tax cuts for the wealthiest people in England, this disgusting Tory leadership contest is putting the Union at risk.”
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has backed Sajid Javid in the contest.