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Nicola Sturgeon does not have a mandate for another independence referendum

3 min read

Last week's general election result does not give the SNP a mandate to demand the right to hold another referendum on Scottish independence, writes David Mundell.

The UK-wide General Election Exit poll didn’t get the Scottish seat predictions right, overestimating the SNP total, but one thing that night was entirely predictable. As soon as the clock struck ten and the polls closed, Nicola Sturgeon claimed that every vote cast anywhere in Scotland for the SNP was a vote to have another independence referendum.

Of course, she has form for this, having done the same in both 2016 and 2017. This time it is even more spurious, with the SNP having spent the final week of the campaign telling Scots a vote for them was not a vote for independence, but rather a vote to “stop Brexit” or “lock Boris out of Number 10”. My own SNP opponent conveyed that message in a tweet just before polling day and so did many other Nationalist candidates in letters to electors and on social media.

Nicola’s bright yellow battle bus, often pictured sweeping through picturesque Scottish scenery, carried the slogan “Stop Brexit” and the message worked. On polling day, I met many voters who told me they were voting SNP for the first time to stop Brexit, but of course they remained opposed to another independence referendum, and if were forced to have one, they would still vote No.

So, I reject completely that the 2019 election result is some sort of mandate for the transfer of the powers to hold a second referendum on independence to the Scottish Parliament and thus leave the decision entirely in the hands of Nicola Sturgeon and her little Green helpers, who are ready to do whatever she asks.

The Prime Minister has made clear he will refuse any request for a so-called Section 30 order, which is the process followed in 2014 to facilitate that referendum, and he is right to do so.

Not only did the Conservatives in Scotland and across the UK stand on a commitment not to have one, but ahead of 2014, Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond signed the Edinburgh Agreement which said that both sides would respect the result whatever it was.

At the time the now First Minister said it was a “gold standard” for agreements of its type, but that didn’t stop her, from the day after that referendum, agitating for another one. No wonder so many of my constituents remarked to me during the campaign that Nicola Sturgeon was “obsessed” by independence.

That obsession is the context of these latest calls for the powers to hold a referendum, not a sea change in the opinions of ordinary Scots on their constitutional future however the SNP might wish to claim otherwise.

Sadly, however, it means Scotland is caught again in Groundhog Day with the circular arguments about having another referendum and manufactured grievance likely to be the order of the day for Scottish politics until the next electoral event – the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections.

However, whilst the SNP will continue to look inward, I am confident the new UK government will be delivering on its election commitments and showing to people in Scotland that one of its governments can “get on with the day job” and work to improve the lives of ordinary Scots.

* David Mundell is the Conservative MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale and a former Secretary of State for Scotland

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