Government urges Sturgeon to drop 'divisive' referendum plans

Scotland Office Minister Lord Dunlop told Nicola Sturgeon to "take it off the table"

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A government minister in the House of Lords has told Nicola Sturgeon to give up on her “divisive” plans for second independence referendum in the middle of the UK’s Brexit negotiations with the EU.

Answering an urgent question on the matter in the House of Lords Scotland Office minister Lord Dunlop said: "The UK Government remains of the view that there should not be a further referendum on independence.

"Even at this late hour we call on the Scottish Government to take it off the table. Another referendum would be divisive and cause huge economic uncertainty at the worst possible time," he warned.

Lord Dunlop said it was only two and a half years since the the people of Scotland had given a decisive answer on the independence question, which the then SNP leader Alex Salmond said at the time had settled the question “for a generation.”

Labour former minister and ex-chief of naval staff, Lord West of Spithead said if a referendum were to be held, it must take place at the end of the negotiating period with the European Union.

Lord Dunlop said he could think of nothing more calculated to "undermine the achievement" of a good Brexit deal than holding a "divisive and disruptive" independence referendum during one of the most important peacetime negotiations ever faced by Britain.

"At this time we should be working together to get the best possible deal for the whole of the UK and each part of the UK, particularly Scotland,” he said.

Lord Dunlop said the result of the referendum held in 2014 should be respected. "It was, as Nicola Sturgeon herself said, a once in a generation vote."

Both sides had signed the Edinburgh agreement which committed to respect that result but only two and a half years later she was calling for another referendum.

"All the evidence is that the people in Scotland overwhelmingly do not want another divisive, disruptive referendum," he said.

"They know the damage that would do to the Scottish economy, to Scottish jobs and would take the eye off the ball of the domestic agenda, which is what we should be focused on."

In the House of Commons, Theresa May told the SNP’s leader at Westminster Angus Robertson: "He talks about a single market, he talks about the importance of access to the single market of the European Union.

"I would simply remind him and his colleagues once again, that the most important single market for Scotland is the single market of the United Kingdom."

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