Boris Johnson: 'Indyref2 is the last thing Scotland needs right now'
BORIS Johnson has said a second independence referendum is the last thing Scotland needs as it recovers from the COVID pandemic.
Speaking virtually at the Scottish Conservative conference, the Prime Minister said it was up to his party to stop Nicola Sturgeon winning a majority at May's election.
Johnson told the party faithful: “I just find it incredible then that the SNP would choose this moment to again push their campaign for separation.
“Just when everything is beginning to reopen again, when we will soon be reunited with our friends and family, the SNP think that this is the time to turn us all against one another.
“To start another political fight. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised: it is their party’s obsession.
“Yet surely even they have a sense of priority, of what is important right now?
“The SNP can see - after the impact of coronavirus - that people want time to renew their lives and to rebuild relationships that have become stretched.
“They know that workers are concerned primarily about their jobs and businesses concerned for their future.
“How can the SNP say that a referendum is the priority to them? It is the last thing they need right now.”
Last week, the SNP's Westminster leader, Ian Blackford repeated his claim that a second independence vote could happen this year, following May’s Holyrood election.
The party's roadmap, published at the start of the year, calls for a vote “in the early part of the new term”.
It also suggests the Scottish Government could hold that referendum even if the UK Government doesn't not devolve a Section 30 order.
In his speech, the Prime Minister said: “It is clear, though, that the SNP are not listening. They are intent on pushing for a referendum, regardless of the cost to Scotland and the whole of the UK.
“So that means it falls to the Scottish Conservatives to make them listen.”
He said the Tories were the only party that “can stop an SNP majority and their drive towards a second independence referendum.”
“Labour are too weak and they cannot be trusted to stand up to the SNP. Keir Starmer had to pay for independent marketing advice to tell him that he shouldn’t be scared to be seen with the Union flag.
“And he was right behind Jeremy Corbyn when he flip flopped all over the place on whether there should be another independence referendum.”
He told party members that their goal in May was to “stop an SNP majority government and secure Scotland’s and the whole of the UK’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.”
“Only the Scottish Conservatives can deliver this, just like they did in 2016. Only the Scottish Conservatives can stop the SNP dividing our country with their drive for a divisive independence referendum.”
Johnson claimed the the vaccine rollout, the delivery of PPE, and testing had "demonstrated, quite simply, the United Kingdom’s collective strength.”
The Tory chief's speech came as a new Panelbase poll found that only one in four voters believe indyref2 should take place within 12 months.
However, 30 per cent want a referendum in the next two to five years, and 45 per cent say there should not be another referendum in the next few years.
The survey for the Sunday Times also says 38 per cent of Scots believe the country will become independent in five to 10 years. While a further 17 per cent expect it within 10 to 15 years and eight per cent think it will happen in 20 to 30 years.
A total of 28% said they don’t expect independence at any point in the next few decades, while 9% were undecided.
SNP depute leader Keith Brown said: “If Scottish voters back the SNP’s plan to hold a post-pandemic referendum, then the Tories have no right to block it.
“The Tories are in panic mode and running scared of democracy, but today’s poll shows that Boris Johnson’s Trump-like attempts to block a referendum are completely unsustainable.
“In seven weeks, voters have the chance to decide who should be in charge of Scotland’s COVID recovery – a Scottish Government democratically elected by the people of Scotland, or a Tory government at Westminster that we didn’t vote for led by the likes of Boris Johnson."
Responding to Johnson's speech, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “Boris Johnson’s Conservatives want to take us back to the old divisive arguments.
“They want us to argue with each other rather than focus on the priorities of the Scottish people – creating jobs, a comeback plan for education and rebuilding our NHS.
“Only Scottish Labour is going into this election with a focus on national recovery and uniting our country.”