Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng says it is for the Scottish people to “decide when and whether they want a referendum”, undermining the line taken by Boris Johnson that the 2014 vote was a once-in-a-generation event.
The prime minister has consistently said the SNP’s calls for indyref2 are “completely irrelevant to the concerns of most people”, who instead wanted politicians to “beat this pandemic”.
But his Cabinet colleague, Mr Kwarteng, has now undermined that stance, saying: “It’s up to the Scottish people to decide when and whether they want a referendum.”
In order for the Scottish Government to stage a second referendum, Westminster must grant a Section 30 order, under the 1998 Act that set up Holyrood.
The comments have been seized upon by the SNP, who have said it is evidence the UK Government is “waking up” to the reality that a second independence referendum is on the horizon.
“I do remember, in 2014 I think it was, that they said that the referendum would settle the issue for 25 years, for a generation.
“And I am surprised at how often it’s come back, but it’s up to the Scottish people to decide when and whether they want a referendum.”
The SNP’s deputy Westminster leader, Kirsten Oswald, said: “Mr Kwarteng is absolutely correct that the people of Scotland – not Boris Johnson – have the right to decide their own future.
“The UK Government seem to be waking up to the reality that their anti-democratic position of denying people in Scotland that right is completely unsustainable.
“The issue at the election in May will be this: who has the right to decide what sort of country we should be after the pandemic – the people of Scotland or Boris Johnson?”