Sturgeon plans to win SNP majority at risk as MP confirms election ‘all to play for’

Scottish election: 'All to play for' claims Conservative MP

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Nicola Sturgeon has said the SNP will have the mandate to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence if it wins a majority in the Holyrood election. But Scottish Conservative MP Andrew Bowie has said despite doing well in the polls, the election is “all to play for”. Speaking to Express.co.uk, Mr Bowie said: “They are doing very well in the polls and anybody can see they are on course for a very good result in May.

“However, I think that talk of a majority is premature.

“I think there is all to play for in preventing them from getting that majority.

“If they do not get a majority, they do not have the mandate for another independence referendum.

“My focus and the focus of every Conservative in the UK is on making sure that the Conservatives which are the strongest unionist voice in Scotland do what we can to make sure that the SNP do not get their majority and therefore do not have their mandate for another independence referendum.”

Rejecting Ms Sturgeon’s calls for a second Scottish independence referendum is “plain common sense” and the “responsible thing to do”, a former UK Government minister has insisted.

Lord Dunlop, who served as a Scottish Office minister and was an adviser to David Cameron when he was in Downing Street, spoke out as he made the case for reform of the union between the different nations of the UK.

But rather than being seen as an effort to combat a second vote on Scotland leaving the UK, he said this work should instead “be framed as making the United Kingdom fully match-fit for a post-Brexit and post-Covid world”.

This could be a “watershed moment requiring national renewal for the UK”, Lord Dunlop added.

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His comments came in a new paper marking the new initiative by the Policy Exchange think tank, with the Future of the Union project being led by Tory MSP and constitutional law expert Prof Adam Tomkins MSP and Eddie Barnes, who was an adviser to Ruth Davidson when she was Scottish Conservative leader.

Those calls have been growing, following an increase in support for Scottish independence, with some 20 polls in Scotland now showing a majority in favour of leaving the United Kingdom.

But Lord Dunlop was clear, saying: “For the UK Government to reject a demand to hold any time soon another referendum on Scottish independence is not, as Nicola Sturgeon would have it, ‘a denial of democracy’ – it’s plain common sense and the responsible thing to do.”

With the Covid-19 pandemic continuing, he added: “The idea that government resources should be diverted from the task of recovery to conduct what would inevitably be another costly and divisive referendum will strike many as a profoundly wrong-headed ordering of priorities, with potentially damaging consequences not just for Scotland, but throughout the UK.”

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But he was also clear that “simply explaining to people in Scotland why now is not the time for another independence referendum isn’t a sufficient or sustainable long-term strategy for supporters of the union”.

To boost the case for the UK, he said he had recommended Prime Minister Boris Johnson set up a new co-operation fund, which would promote greater joint working between the UK and devolved governments.

Lord Dunlop, who carried out an as-yet unpublished review of devolution commissioned by previous prime minister Theresa May, added while devolution had developed over the last two decades, there had been “little equivalent development” of the arrangements for inter-governmental relations.

Reform in this area is “urgently required as it is part of the essential glue that binds together the United Kingdom”, he said, calling for an enhanced Intergovernmental Council.

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