Michael Fallon: Westminster will block new Scottish independence vote
The UK Government will block any attempts by the SNP to hold a second independence referendum, Michael Fallon has said.
In a further sign of the tensions between Holyrood and Westminster, the Defence Secretary said the Scottish government should "forget" any plans to stage another vote.
Mr Fallon hit out in an interview with The Herald ahead of a visit to the Royal Marine base near Arbroath today.
Constitutional matters are reserved to Westminster, so the UK Government must give permission to the Scottish Parliament if it wants to hold another referendum.
Asked if ministers would facilitate a fresh vote on Scotland leaving the UK, the Defence Secretary said: “No, forget it. The respect agenda is two-way.”
He added: "She [Ms Sturgeon] is constantly asking us to respect the SNP government but she has to respect the decision of Scotland to stay inside the UK in 2014 and the decision of the UK to leave the EU. Respect works two ways."
Scots voted by 55% to 45% in favour of staying in the union in 2014, but Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly mooted the idea of a rerun following the Brexit vote, in which Scotland overwhelmingly backed Remain.
The Defence Secretary said the SNP government did not have a mandate for a second referendum, because it failed to secure a majority at the last Holyrood election.
He said: "We may well have seen peak SNP. They lost the referendum, they lost seats. There are other voices in Scotland now, not least Ruth Davidson's."
But Ms Sturgeon accused Mr Fallon of “backpedalling” after he refused to repeat his comments when interviewed on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme.
When asked whether UK ministers would block a vote, he said: “We don't see the need for a referendum - this is a diversion.
"What the Scottish government should be focusing on is what it was elected to do, which is to improve schools standards, get to grips with the problems in Scottish hospitals and reverse the serious rise in unemployment."
The First Minister tweeted in response that such a block would be “disastrous” for the UK Government.
Theresa May's official spokeswoman said: "The real question here is should there be another independence referendum and our view on that has been clear, which is that the one in 2014 was legal, fair and decisive.
"Our priority here is on how do we look to the future and move forward. We believe that this issue was settled in 2014. I think recent polls don't suggest there has been a big change in the views around a second referendum, so what we should be focusing on is how do we work together to ensure the best possible outcome for the UK as we exit the EU."
A spokesperson for the First Minister said: “The arrogance of the Tories knows no bounds. They now think they can do what they want to Scotland and get away with it – not content with trying to drag us out of EU against our will with the support of just one MP out of 59 in Scotland, they are now suggesting they might try to block the nation's right to choose a different path.
"Any Tory bid to block a referendum would be a democratic outrage, but would only succeed in boosting support for both a referendum and for independence itself - something which the prime minister has previously indicated she understands all too well.
"Our mandate is unequivocal, with a manifesto commitment which makes explicitly clear that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to decide on an independence referendum if Scotland faces being taken out of the EU against our will."