Tory ministers have been ordered to shut up about Scottish independence for fear they are making the situation worse and playing into Nicola Sturgeon's hands.
A private edict says they should not engage with SNP arguments or even make a positive case for the union because it makes Westminster seem 'needy'.
Instead they want to turn the focus onto Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP's record in power, with the party facing crisis over the NHS and drugs deaths.
A Conservatives source told the Times today that it would be 'very hard' to win a new independence referendum at the moment and the debate should be 'shut down' to spill the win from the pro-independence movement's sails.
A private edict says Boris Johnson's ministers should not engage with SNP arguments or even make a positive case for the union because it makes Westminster seem 'needy'
Ms Sturgeon said this month she wants to hold a re-run of the 2014 referendum 'Covid permitting, by the end of 2023'
'Sturgeon would present it as a chance for Scotland to rejoin the European Union and independence would almost be the status quo proposition,' they told the Times.
'If there is ever to be another referendum it needs to be on our terms where remaining part of the UK is the status quo option, as in 2014.
Earlier this month Ms Sturgeon claimed she had an 'unarguable mandate' to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence.
The SNP leader said her party's victory at the Holyrood elections in May means she has the right to 'implement the manifesto we put before the country' which included a fresh ballot on splitting from the UK.
She said she wants to hold a re-run of the 2014 referendum 'Covid permitting, by the end of 2023'.
The First Minister said she would seek 'co-operation, not confrontation' with the UK Government as she tries to secure a vote.
A formal referendum can only take place if it is given the green light by Mr Johnson but he has made clear he is not in favour of holding another ballot, arguing the first was supposed to be a once in a generation event.
Ms Sturgeon's fresh push for an independence referendum comes despite polls suggesting most Scots don't want one any time soon.
Polls have shown Scots are divided down the middle on whether to leave the Union, but backing for independence has dropped sharply from the height of the pandemic.
A survey this month found just 31 per cent support a vote on the crucial issue in the next two years.
Meanwhile Sir Keir Starmer has been warned an alliance with the SNP would be an 'unmitigated disaster' and must be ruled out ahead of the next general election.
Scottish Labour chiefs yesterday said 'no matter how tempting' it might look to work with Nicola Sturgeon to win power at Westminster, they must resist.
Sir Keir Starmer (pictured today) has been warned an alliance with the SNP would be an 'unmitigated disaster' and must be ruled out ahead of the next general election.
Deputy leader Jackie Baillie said such a move would 'not play well' with English voters who 'do not want to see a Nationalist tail wagging a UK Labour dog'.
Labour's desperate bid to win back voters in Scotland will play a central role at the party's annual conference in Brighton this week, with discussions on how the nation could help Sir Keir to No10.
Speaking at a fringe event hosted by the Scottish Fabians, Miss Baillie said: 'The message isn't just for Scottish colleagues. It is a message to the UK party that there is no route to a Labour government that does not go through Scotland.
'If we want to win power in the United Kingdom we need to win again in Scotland.'
However, she warned that there are 'no short-cuts'.
Miss Baillie said: 'No matter how tempting it may look to UK party colleagues to consider a so-called progressive alliance with the SNP, it would be an unmitigated disaster, not just for the Labour party but also for Scotland.'