Alistair Darling has rubbished the prospect of another referendum on Scottish independence taking place within two years.
The leader of the Better Together campaign in the run-up to the 2014 vote said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was in “no hurry” to rush into another referendum and was instead “throwing red meat” to her supporters by suggesting one could be imminent.
Lord Darling’s comments were made amid reports in the Herald newspaper that senior SNP figures want their party leader to wait until a potential Tory victory at the 2020 general election before pressing ahead with a second vote.
It follows a poll showing nearly half (46%) of Scots oppose a referendum in the next few years.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, the former Labour chancellor said: “I don’t think it will happen any time soon at all.
“Nothing has changed since 2014 … in that roughly speaking 45% of the population would vote for independence, 55% would vote against it.
“That’s where we are and Nicola Sturgeon is not going to risk everything, her reputation – she has seen what has happened to David Cameron, who the only thing people will remember about him I suspect when history is written in years to come is that he accidentally got us out of the EU and he didn’t want it.
“If she loses, she knows she would be finished. That’s why she is in no hurry to rush into it.
“What she has got to do, of course, is to continually throw red meat to her supporters and, in many ways, calling for independence is a diversion because people aren’t discussing the fact that how is it that people from disadvantaged backgrounds are not getting the same opportunities as they are, say in London, why is it we’ve got a shortage of GPs in Scotland, when all these things are controlled by the Scottish Government.
“Things will change from day to day, month to month, year to year, but on the fundamental point on the question of Scottish independence, nothing much has changed in the last two years.”
Speaking later on the same programme, former first minister Alex Salmond repeated his prediction that another independence referendum would be held in autumn 2018.
The SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman said: “The way that Westminster can stop a referendum, of course, is by allowing Nicola Sturgeon to secure Scotland’s position within the European single market without having an independence referendum.
“Now, my judgement is they don’t have the flexibility, the sensitivity, the democratic acknowledgement of Scotland’s rights to do that, which is why my guess is we’re likely to have another independence referendum in two years’ time.
“As opposed to starting that campaign at 27% of the vote, which is what we did in 2012, Nicola Sturgeon will be starting or would be starting it at 48% or 49% of the vote where the yes side is now.”