IndyRef2: Andrew Bowie clashes with George MonbiotScotland's Constitution Secretary Michael Russell said a draft bill paving the way for indyref2 w
IndyRef2: Andrew Bowie clashes with George Monbiot
Scotland’s Constitution Secretary Michael Russell said a draft bill paving the way for indyref2 would be published within the next six weeks before the Scottish elections. But Freedom of Information (FOI) requests revealed Boris Johnson and Tory ministers are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on new staff for its ‘Union Unit” to defend increasing support for Scottish independence.
Figures seen by this website reveal Whitehall officials were spending £110,000-£114,999 on a salary for new Union Unit chief Oliver Lewis.
The former Vote Leave staffer took over the new role this month after Luke Graham parted ways with No10.
The FOI requests also reveal £80,000 was spent on a salary for Jack Sellers, a Union Unit special adviser who works jointly with the Wales Office.
A further £280,000+ for at least four new “heads of role” posts in Michael Gove’s Union Directorate will also be hired with an average salary of between £64,500 and £70,877.
Boris Johnson has pledged to defend the Union
Boris Johnson replaced the head of the Unit this week
Express.co.uk understands the new “army” of civil servants are part of a new team of advisors to help the Tories fight the SNP.
A No 10 source told this publication: “The Prime Minister has been very clear on Scottish independence and the Union, a second vote is not on the cards.
“It’s about making clear to the Scottish people that Scotland is better in the Union.
“Our ‘army’ will be ready for the challenge of tackling Scottish independence head-on.”
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Michael Russell said a referendum bill would be published within six weeks
Scottish politicians today expressed outrage at the prospect of a second referendum bill being published ahead of the Holyrood elections, which are set to take place on May 6th.
It comes despite First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in September 2020 saying the Scottish Government “paused work” on preparations for a ballot as the coronavirus pandemic took hold.
In her programme for Government in September 2020, Ms Sturgeon said a draft bill would be published setting out the timescale and potential question for a new referendum in due course.
The Programme for Government stated: “If there is majority support for the bill in the Scottish Parliament in the next term, there could then be no moral or democratic justification whatsoever for any UK Government to ignore the rights of the people of Scotland to choose our own future.”
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Douglas Ross branded the move “reckless”
In a statement today, Mr Russell added to the Sunday National Scotland: “We said we would publish it before the Parliament rose and we will.
“It is a very simple bill, there is nothing complicated about it.
“The key point is we have said we will put it in front of the people of Scotland at an election and they will have the decision on it.
“It is proceeding according to what we said, it is a simple short bill and people will have the chance to then decide what they want to do – that is democracy.”
Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour interim leader
But Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross branded the move “reckless”.
The Moray MP, added: “The SNP’s threat of an illegal referendum is a distraction that risks our handling of the pandemic and will hold back our economic recovery.
“It is beyond belief that Mike Russell thinks that this should be the priority when lives and livelihoods are still threatened.
“Only the Scottish Conservatives can again stop the SNP’s plans for another divisive referendum in May’s elections.”
Jackie Baillie MSP, interim leader of Scottish Labour told Express.co.uk: “We need to be focused on the economic and social recovery from this pandemic, not more constitutional squabbling.
“People are still dying from Covid and yet the SNP persists with their divisive plans to break up the country.
Support for Scottish independence is highest at 58 percent
“Mike Russell can play the Grand Old Duke of York all he wants – Scottish Labour is focused entirely on rebuilding our economy and society.”
Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, added to this publication: “It is grossly insulting that the Scottish Government is devoting time to this during a public health pandemic that is claiming lives.
The public has made it clear that a divisive second independence referendum should not be a priority.”
So far, 21 polls have found consistent support for Scottish independence, with an average of 55 percent.
Research by Savanta ComRes for The Scotsman newspaper this week found 47 percent of people could vote Yes if there is a second referendum, with 42 percent opposed to independence and 10 percent undecided.
When those who do not know how they would vote are excluded, the poll puts support for leaving the UK at 53 percent – down 4 percent on January – with 47 percent backing the Union.