Sunak 'completely firm' with Yousaf on independence referendum request

The Prime Minister told the Scottish Tory conference there would be no more powers for Holyrood.

Rishi Sunak ‘completely firm’ with Humza Yousaf on request to hold a second Scottish independence referendum STV News

Rishi Sunak said he was “completely firm” with Humza Yousaf on rejecting his request for a second independence referendum when the two leaders held their first meeting together earlier this week.

The Prime Minister spoke at a Q&A event with Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross on Friday following his speech to around 300 members at the party’s conference at Glasgow’s SEC.

Suank said independence is not the priority of the people of Scotland as he accused the SNP of being “obsessed” with secession.

During their meeting earlier this week, the First Minister asked Sunak to hand Scotland the Section 30 powers needed to hold a second independence referendum, urging the Tory leader to “respect the democratic wishes” of the Scottish Parliament.

Asked about the meeting at the Tory conference, Sunak said: “When I met [Yousaf] I was completely firm about independence, and I will always be completely firm.

“That’s not a priority for the Scottish people, as he himself admitted over the summer.

“I think he said there’s no sustained majority for independence, and they would do well to remember that and stop being distracted and obsessing with it.”

Sunak also confirmed there would be no more powers for Holyrood, accusing the Scottish Government of not using the powers it already has.

“We can’t devolve and forget,” he said.

“Scotland already is the most powerful devolved assembly anywhere in the world.

“So all this talk of needing more powers is clearly not appropriate.

“The SNP and the Scottish Government don’t even use the powers they already have.

“So we can stop talking about it any more.

“We believe devolution should be as close to people as possible.”

There will be no more powers for Holyrood, Rishi Sunak has said.iStock

Sunak added: “In the same way that Westminster doesn’t always know best, it’s not the case in Scotland that the SNP and Holyrood always knows best.”

He defended the UK Government’s levelling up scheme, which has bypassed Holyrood to give councils money directly. The SNP claimed the move amounted to a “power grab”.

Sunak said: “What we believe is we can devolve power to local communities, and that’s what we’ve done.

“The UK Government is being more engaged in levelling up and investing directly in local communities across Scotland.

“Local councils are really keen to engage directly with the UK Government, they know what their priorities are, more so than Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP do.

“That’s real devolution in action.”

SNP Westminster Leader Stephen Flynn MP rejected that, saying the Tories have “no mandate” in Scotland.

He said: “Rishi Sunak should be apologising for the disastrous mess the Tory government has made of the economy – and for the damage he’s caused to families, who are paying through the nose for Brexit and the Tory cost of living crisis.

“The SNP is the only party offering a real alternative to the Tories. Voting SNP is the best way to beat the Tories in Scotland at the next election – and the only way to get rid of Westminster Tory governments for good with independence.”

Minister for independence Jamie Hepburn said: “There is a democratic mandate for an independence referendum and the Scottish Government remains ready to engage with the UK Government to give people in Scotland the right to choose their constitutional future.

“This is in line with the result of the 2021 Scottish Parliament election which returned a clear majority in favour for a referendum.”

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Conservative Party told conference members that Scotland will be a key battleground in the next general election, adding that votes for the party north of the border could keep Sir Keir Starmer out of Downing Street.

Greg Hands said that with the SNP “weakened” amid the turmoil of the police investigation into its finances there is an opportunity for the Conservatives to gain seats in the next UK election, which is likely to be held next year.

He said the SNP has “a dedication to incompetence and mismanagement of public services and finances that even the Labour Party would envy”.

Hands predicted that the SNP’s time in power at Holyrood is “going to end in tears”, and that means his party has “the opportunity not just to hold on to what we have but to go forward and make gains right the way across Scotland”.

He told the Scottish Conservative conference in Glasgow: “Make no mistake, Scotland is going to be a key battleground of ours in the next UK election.

“It could be that Scotland is the deciding factor in that election, whether we have a full term of Rishi Sunak or something else under Sir Keir Starmer.”

SNP Westminster deputy leader Mhairi Black countered by saying a vote for her party was the best way to oust the Tories from Westminster.

She described Hands’ remarks as being a “stark reminder that voting SNP is the best way to beat the Tories in Scotland at the next election”, although she added that independence was the “only way to get rid of Westminster Tory governments for good”.

Black said: “The Tories know that Scotland could hold the balance of power in a hung parliament, if enough SNP MPs are elected. They are desperate to stop Scotland having a strong SNP voice.

“With the pro-Brexit Labour Party little more than a pale imitation of the Tories, it’s essential Scotland has a strong team of SNP MPs to stand up for Scotland and get the best deal possible.”

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