Tonight, Express.co.uk can reveal Boris Johnson is ready to fight “tooth and nail” against any plans for a proposed vote on Scottish independence. It comes after a leaked memo revealed ways the UK Government could attempt to promote the Union.
The document prepared by Hanbury Strategy suggested Mr Johnson should approach Scottish independence with “new accommodation, new constitutional settlement, and cooperation rather than confrontation.”
Edinburgh is also becoming increasingly concerned about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit as intense negotiations continue in London this week between Michel Barnier and Lord David Frost.
Downing Street warned “time is very short” to bridge the “significant” gaps between the UK and European Union sides on fisheries, a key concern amongst St Andrews House officials.
A Whitehall source added to Express.co.uk tonight: “The Union is very important, Scotland is significantly beneficial as part of the UK.
“We will continue to strongly uphold the decisive decision made by the Scottish people in 2014 that Scotland is better together as part of the UK and make the case.”
Whitehall officials are watching Edinburgh closely as Nicola Sturgeon prepares to reveal a draft bill for a second independence vote with some details expected at the forthcoming SNP conference next month.
Alister Jack, Mr Johnson’s Scottish Secretary, added: “He [Boris Johnson] absolutely wants Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom – he’s a strong unionist.
“His position is that we need to keep pressing the case for the Union and the strength of the Union in Scotland, not just with financial support but we realise you have to win hearts as well as minds.”
Mr Jack also addressed Brexit, adding: “As we come out of the EU, I do acknowledge that part of the problem we have is a lot of people in Scotland are upset that we are leaving the EU.
“But we need to play the long game, show the benefits of the city deals, show the benefits of rebuilding our coastal communities on the back of taking control of our fishing waters.”
It comes after the latest Ipsos MORI poll on Scottish independence found just 42 percent back staying in the Union, with 58 percent in favour of breaking away.
It also showed strong support for the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon, with 72 percent saying they were satisfied with the job she is doing as First Minister – a net approval rating of +49.
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The poll also found a majority of people in Scotland (51 percent) felt Boris Johnson “definitely should” grant a new independence vote if the SNP win a majority of seats in the 2021 Holyrood elections.
Hanbury Strategy’s leaked memo further warned if the SNP builds on an increasing momentum for independence then the “endpoint could be a full-blown constitutional crisis or a second independence referendum.”
It warned a “new constitutional plan” would need to be ready to roll out in case of an SNP victory in May.
When pressed on the strategy, No 10 said they had not seen the memo and declined to comment any further.
But, the SNP dismissed Whitehall’s concerns tonight with a party policy source, adding: “Decisions taken in Scotland need to be taken by the people of Scotland.
“The Tories need to realise that Scottish people have the right to determine their own future in their own hands.”