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‘Butt out!’: Michael Gove under fire after branding calls for new Scotland independence vote ‘reckless’ and ‘foolish’

‘Butt out!’: Michael Gove under fire after branding calls for new Scotland independence vote ‘reckless’ and ‘foolish’
Senior cabinet minister Michael Gove has sparked a row over “anglo-colonialism” after calling talk of a new Scottish independence referendum “foolish” and saying he “can’t see it” happening before the next UK general election.

Countering Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s demand for a so-called ‘Indyref2’ to be held by the end of 2023, Gove said that Boris Johnson is unlikely to agree to conduct any referendum ahead of expected polls in 2024.

“It seems to me to be at best reckless, at worst folly, to try to move the conversation (from Covid) on to constitutional division when people expect us to be working together in order to deal with these challenges,” Gove said during an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

Gove, the minister in charge of combating a renewed push for independence led by the Scottish National Party (SNP), said it was a “foolish” discussion to have at a time when Downing Street is “completely focused” on economic recovery from the pandemic “for the lifetime of this parliament.”

Although the SNP came up one seat shy of an overall majority in last month’s parliamentary elections, an improved showing by the Scottish Green Party provided the pro-independence bloc with a majority in Holyrood.

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Sturgeon deemed the victory a mandate to hold a new vote for independence, saying it was the “will of the country,” and warned “Johnson and other Westminster politicians” opposed to it against “picking a fight with the democratic wishes of the Scottish people.”

Although Sturgeon has said a second referendum is “a matter of when, not if,” Johnson has previously said that the failed 2014 independence vote was a “once in a generation” event, citing the SNP’s own campaign slogan from the prior vote.

With these latest remarks, Gove doubled down on previous comments about a possible vote and the potential legal challenges surrounding it. Last month, he said such talk “was sucking all the oxygen out of the room” when the focus ought to be on Covid.

The new comments, which are markedly different from the more conciliatory tone recently adopted by Downing Street, could increase the likelihood of the SNP attempting a unilateral referendum without permission from Westminster. This would prompt a legal tussle under the Scotland Act (1998).

In response, SNP MP Stewart McDonald tweeted that it was not up to election losers to “dictate the timetable of the winning party’s agenda.” He added that it was “good to see reality on #indyref2 finally hitting home.”

A number of social media users were more blunt, reacting by telling Westminster to “butt out” and saying that “English dominance cannot and should not be tolerated.” One person said not respecting the “Scottish parliamentary will” for a referendum would prove the UK was a “folly for anglo-colonialism.”

Some people even took aim at Gove’s contention later in the interview that it was a myth and “SNP mind game” that Johnson was not popular in Scotland.

The majority of reactions wondered why Scotland was even seeking permission from the UK parliament in the first place, with one person stating that Scottish independence was not some “gift (from) English politicians.” Another said Johnson was not “some genie in a bottle granting wishes.”

However, a few users said further referendums would go the same way as the one in 2014, which saw 55% of voters electing to remain with the UK, as opposed to the 45% who wanted to leave.

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