Boris Johnson has called talk of another Scottish independence referendum ‘irresponsible’ as the SNP wait to see whether they have achieved a majority in Holyrood.
Counting resumed on Saturday in the key election, with the party’s chances of winning more than 65 seats ‘in the balance’.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants to hold another poll on the future of Scotland and her case will be strengthened if her party gets over the threshold.
After 48 of the 73 constituency results in Scotland were declared on Friday, the SNP had 39 seats, Liberal Democrats four, Conservatives three and Labour two.
The SNP picked up key seats in Edinburgh Central, Ayr and East Lothian. In the first result to declared in the election on Saturday the SNP held Aberdeenshire East.
Some constituencies are still to be counted on Saturday, when the crucial regional list results will also be declared.
Under Holyrood’s proportional representation system, the SNP’s wins in the constituency votes could see it lose out on the regional list which make up the remaining 56 seats.
Speaking on Friday, Ms Sturgeon said it was ‘almost certain’ the SNP would win its fourth term in power at Holyrood.
She also stressed that ‘when the time is right’, she should be able to offer Scots ‘the choice of a better future’ in a second independence referendum.
But Westminster politicians have moved to dismiss talk of another poll. Boris Johnson told the Daily Telegraph another referendum would be ‘irresponsible and reckless’ in the ‘current context’ as Britain emerges from the coronavirus crisis.
The Environment Secretary George Eustice echoed the PM’s words while speaking on Times Radio this morning.
‘We think this is a complete distraction,’ he said. ‘It would be irresponsible to have another divisive referendum and another bout of constitutional debate at a time when we are charting our way out of this pandemic and when we’ve got to really focus on economic recovery.
‘We think it’s completely the wrong thing to be doing. We had a referendum just a little over five years ago and that settled the issue.’
But he stopped short of saying whether the Government would fight any bid for a second Scottish referendum in the courts.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘Look, I’m not a lawyer – lawyers will look at these things and I think it is getting ahead of ourselves.
‘There is a question at the moment over whether the SNP will get a majority or not – we’ll have to wait and see until the results come through.’
Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney told he BBC he’s confident there will be a pro-independence majority in Holyrood after the election, even if the SNP don’t get over 65 seats.
He said: ‘I think what matters on the question you asked me about, a mandate for a referendum is what is the position of those who are elected to the Parliament and will there be an overall majority of members elected committed to the hosting of an independence referendum, and I’m very confident that will be the case.’
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