Allowing a second independence referendum is not on the agenda of Boris Johnson’s government, the new Scottish secretary has said.
Alister Jack, the little-known MP who replaces David Mundell at Dover House, told STV News he wanted to work with the Scottish Government in his new role.
But he added that if Nicola Sturgeon’s government requested the Section 30 powers to hold a fresh independence vote, he would advise the new Prime Minister to decline.
Media reports suggest Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson appealed to Johnson’s team to keep Mundell at the Scotland Office, where he had been for nine years.
But she has welcomed Jack into the post, hailing him as a “strong advocate” for Scotland and the union.
The new Scottish secretary revealed Davidson called to congratulate while he was still in 10 Downing Street shortly after his appointment on Wednesday evening.
In his first round of interviews in the role, Jack was asked by STV’s Westminster correspondent Kathryn Samson what he would advise the PM to do if there was a request to hold an independence referendum.
“To decline. To refuse it. We settled that in 2014. It’s not back on the agenda,” he said.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime – once-in-a-generation, as the then-first minister said – referendum, and as far as I’m concerned the matter was settled then.”
But he denied he would take an aggressive approach with Scottish ministers, saying: “I want to work with the Scottish Government.
“I don’t want everything to be seen in the eyes of a grievance.
“I want us to work together to respect the devolved settlement and for us to work well.
“To try to make Scotland’s economy stronger, make Scotland stronger in the United Kingdom and for Scotland to flourish.”
Jack, who was only elected as Dumfries and Galloway in 2017, is a multi-millionaire businessman and owns a dairy farm and 1200-acre estate near Lockerbie.
In April, he was made a government whip having served as an assistant for two months and as a parliamentary private secretary before that.
His appointment to Johnson’s Cabinet was part of a trend in the former London mayor’s dramatic reshuffle that saw hard Brexiteers generally favoured over soft Brexit supporters.
On whether he has enough political experience to be Scottish secretary, Jack said: “I came into parliament only two years ago – I accept that criticism.
“But I did have a career in business before that and many people say that politicians are career politicians, and it’s all they’ve known.
“That’s not the case with me: I bring a very different aspect to the whole role.”
The Scottish secretary added: “I was very fortunate to be picked, it was a great honour.
“But it wasn’t just because I voted Leave. There were many others who voted Leave. I think it’s because I brought some experience.”