Tough luck Nicola! Boris can ban IndyRef2 until 2034 with new law, says former No10 aide
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But Luke Graham, the former head of Downing Street’s Union Unit, believes fresh legislation should be delayed for at least a year to avoid looking like a knee jerk reaction to last week’s Holyrood elections. First Minister Mrs Sturgeon’s SNP narrowly missed out on the overall Scottish Parliamentary majority she said would be a mandate for a so-called IndyRef 2, taking 64 seats – one short of the number required.
However, she nevertheless pressed her case during a phone call with Mr Johnson and also suggested it would be “absurd” if he denied Scots the chance to vote on the issue.
Mr Graham, who was replaced in Number 10 by Oliver Lewis in February, said the Government should change the law to make referendums on the same subject a once-in-a-generation occurrence.
Given the last vote was in 2014, this would mean there would not be another one until 2034.
Scottish parliament who say they want to break away from the UK then you should have a referendum, and that has obviously set us on a particular path.
“It would be better to articulate exactly when these things should happen and who is involved.
“The Scottish parliament have obviously passed (draft) legislation to try to define their own mandate and way to hold referenda elections and I think it would be good for Westminster to update that again.
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Realistically it has to be at least 20 years
“We need to be quite careful, though, that you don’t fall into the trap of looking like you are moving the goalposts deliberately.
“So timing of this needs to be very carefully thought through so it doesn’t look like we’ve got a knee-jerk response to a pro-independence majority.”
Any introduction of new legislation should be delayed until 2022 or 23 to allow for the coronavirus recovery, the former MP for Ochil and South Perthshire argued.
With specific reference about what any new law should say about the time frame for another referendum, he added: “Realistically it has to be at least 20 years before you get into that routine.”
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“And it shouldn’t say you will hold one every 20 years, it should just be if there is a new majority or demand.
“What is really important that does go into any legislation is that you have got to get two-thirds of the vote when changing the constitutional position of the country.”
Mr Graham’s remarks drew support from Rory Stewart, likewise a former Tory MP and a committed unionist.
Mr Stewart, now a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, where he teaches politics and international relations, tweeted: “The basic principle that referenda should be rare and confined to the most fundamental constitutional principles is good.
“And it seems a very good idea to not get into the habit of asking the same question again and again. Well done @LukeGrahamUK.”
Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, claimed there was a “fresh democratic commitment” for a referendum as a result of the elections.
He told Mr Johnson: “The Prime Minister needs to reflect on this reality. A fight with democracy is a fight he will never, not ever, win.”
The MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber said: “There is a mandate for an independence referendum and let me put this House on notice – it’s the people of Scotland and our Parliament that will determine when that independence referendum will take place.”
Referring to the coronavirus pandemic, he added: “When this crisis has passed there is now a fresh democratic commitment to give the Scottish people the right to choose an independent future.
“The Prime Minister would do well to listen to the First Minister – an independence referendum is now a question of when and not if.”
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