UK defence secretary: British government could block a Scottish referendum

Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, has provoked a row over a second Scottish independence referendum by suggesting it would be blocked by the UK government.
Before backtracking in a BBC Radio Scotland interview on Thursday morning, Fallon told the Herald newspaper the British government would not give Holyrood the necessary legal power to stage another referendum.
“No, forget it,” he said, reflecting opposition from cabinet ministers who believe Nicola Sturgeon is bluffing about holding a snap referendum before the UK leaves the EU, since she does not have majority support for doing so among Scottish voters.
Fallon told the newspaper the first minister was “constantly asking us to respect the SNP government, but she has to respect the decision of Scotland to stay inside the UK in 2014 and the decision of the UK to leave the EU. Respect works two ways”.
He softened his stance on Good Morning Scotland, instead urging Sturgeon’s government to “forget all that stuff and get on with the day job” it was elected for. “We didn’t see the need for a second referendum,” he said.
Sturgeon retaliated by retweeting and endorsing a comment saying the Conservative party would block a second independence referendum out of fear.
After hearing Fallon’s radio interview, she criticised the defence secretary for rowing back on his earlier remarks.
Fallon’s comments risk fuelling nationalist resentment about the Tories’ small mandate in Scotland, where it has one MP out of 59. Earlier this week, Sturgeon suggested she could decide to call a snap referendum as early as next month, before the UK government formally triggers article 50 by the end of March.
Speaking after she had pressed Theresa May, the prime minister, to accept that Scotland deserved privileged access to the single market because it voted against leaving the EU, Sturgeon said: “In terms of me getting a sense of whether Scotland is going to be listened to at all, that period between now and triggering article 50 is absolutely crucial.
“The next few weeks are not going to resolve every issue of Brexit, but in terms of me being able to judge whether Scotland’s voice is going to be heard at all in this process … the next few weeks are very important.”
Repeated opinion polls show the majority of Scottish voters do not want a quick independence referendum and support for leaving the UK is at about 45%, below the majority Sturgeon needs. Stephen Low, a Scottish union official close to Jeremy Corbyn, the UK Labour leader, accused Fallon of handing Sturgeon a propaganda gift.

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