The SNP will drop plans for a second independence referendum if the UK Government meets its Brexit demands, Nicola Sturgeon’s deputy has pledged.
Angus Robertson, the party’s boss at Westminster who was elected its overall depute leader on Thursday, seemed to contradict the First Minister during a BBC interview.
Ms Sturgeon had earlier refused to rule out taking the threat off the table even if she gets what she wants from Prime Minister Theresa May and predicted it was “highly likely” Scotland would go back to the polls by 2020.
But Mr Robertson said: “If the United Kingdom delivers on the priorities that the Scottish Government is going to be setting out in the next week, that is going to be the focus of of our our continuing and renewed relationship in a European context, and if the Scottish Government is satisfied then I don’t see how the Scottish Government would pursue a further independence referendum.
“Having said that, given that all of the straws in the wind show that the UK Government has not taken it seriously thus far, it is exactly why it is right and proper for the Scottish Government to begin consultations on a Scottish independence referendum just in case the UK Government does not deliver on what is required for Scotland.”
He added: “If the UK Government delivers on the priorities that the Scottish Government wants, the safeguards for us in Europe, then we wouldn’t need to go ahead with a referendum.”
Ms Sturgeon, who first said another vote on Scotland quitting the UK was “highly likely” just hours after the EU referendum, confirmed her prediction of a second referendum before the end of the current Holyrood parliament during an interview for ITV’s Peston on Sunday.
She called on Mrs May to treat Scotland as an “equal partner in the UK” if she wanted the Union to be preserved, adding she had “not seen much of that from the Prime Minister so far”.
Asked if she would anticipate a second Scottish referendum before 2020, Ms Sturgeon said: “I think it’s highly likely, given the situation we’re in, I said that actually the morning after the EU referendum and nothing has changed my mind.
“If anything, what’s happened since then has probably made me think that even more so than I did the morning after the referendum.”
Scottish Secretary David Mundell claimed there was no “will amongst the Scottish people to hold an independence referendum”.
He told Sky News: “Since she started ramping up the independence talk after the Brexit vote, actually support for having another independence referendum has gone down even amongst people who support independence because they know that it is divisive and they know that the two governments in conflict will not actually get Scotland and the UK the best possible deal in the EU negotiations.”