The Scottish secretary, David Mundell, has challenged Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to clarify her position after her predecessor Alex Salmond said a second independence referendum was inevitable.
Mundell said: “I think Nicola Sturgeon needs to be much clearer. Is it the SNP policy to have a second referendum or not? It is clear from what Alex Salmond is saying: this isn’t about the Smith commission – for Alex Salmond the Smith commission isn’t good enough. It is independence or nothing.”
In an interview with the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland, Mundell said: “The SNP’s Scotland Office spokesman at Westminster are putting down questions, asking what the UK government are doing about the second referendum when we were told in the white paper that the referendum was a once-in-a-generation experience.”
“We were told by the former first minister it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we were told by the current first minister before the UK general election that there wasn’t going to be another referendum, but all this talk of a second referendum has been stirred up by SNP MPs. I don’t accept that circumstances have changed.”
Salmond told BBC1’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday morning: “The question, of course, is not the inevitability; it is the timing, and that is very much in the hands of Nicola Sturgeon.”
Salmond said there were three issues that were making a second referendum increasingly likely “on a timescale yet to be determined”: the failure of the UK government to deliver fully on powers it promised Scotland before last September’s independence vote; the proposed EU referendum; and the continuation of Tory austerity policy.
Sturgeon refused to say whether she would include a pledge to hold a new referendum in the party’s manifesto for the 2016 Holyrood elections.
Speaking to the BBC on a visit to China, Sturgeon said: “I believe Scotland will become an independent country and that will only happen if people vote for it in a referendum, so I believe one day there will be another independence referendum.
“It will be up to me or any future leader of the SNP to decide whether or not that goes in a manifesto for a Scottish election. But the ultimate decision as to whether there is a referendum again, when that might be and what the outcome might be are all matters entirely for the democratic decision of the Scottish people.”
Mundell has also responded to two written questions submitted by another SNP MP, Margaret Ferrier, asking if the UK government had contingency plans for another independence referendum becoming her party’s policy following the Holyrood elections of 2016.
He said his department has made no plans and that he is disappointed by the questions in light of previous statements made by both Sturgeon and Salmond that the referendum was a one-off.
But the chairman of the SNP, Derek Mackay, told the same radio show that the Scottish government is not preparing for a second referendum. Mackay, who is transport and islands minister, told Good Morning Scotland: “There is no preparation or planning for a second referendum, but we still believe in independence for Scotland because we think it could so much good for the country.
“The only referendum that we’ll we face at the moment is that referendum to haul us out of Europe – which there wasn’t much appetite for in Scotland.”
This article was written by Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent, for theguardian.com on Monday 27th July 2015 10.21 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010