Boris Johnson has challenged the SNP to spell out the case for a second independence referendum, telling a senior nationalist MP that if he wanted the vote to take place nationalists had to say “on what?”
In heated clashes with veteran MP Pete Wishart the Tory PM repeated his mantra that the SNP had promised the 2014 vote would be a “once in a generation” event and said it would be “deranged” to hand back control of fisheries to the EU.
But goaded by the SNP MP that he was “speaking an utter load of rubbish”, the Prime Minister changed tactics and asked why there should be a referendum at all.
He told Wishart: “You can’t say, by the way, what you want this referendum to discuss or what the prospectus is. Do you want to scrap the army, scrap the pound, scrap the Queen, the Barnett formula? What do you want? You can’t say what the agenda is except that you want to break up the UK in some way.”
Speaking at a Commons committee grilling, Johnson added: “l think of you need to ask yourself whether you’re seriously saying right now, in the middle of a pandemic, whether the people of Scotland or UK or anywhere think it is sensible to have a referendum on a constitutional issue when they are trying to get the pandemic down, to generate millions of jobs in the next few years throughout this whole country and to bounce back together.”
The PM went on to mock the SNP “aversion to anything that comes from England” like the “Oxford” vaccine and said the SNP government was failing on education and crime and had nothing to say except demand a referendum.
Johnson said: “I think the people of this country want us to focus on fighting Covid and getting on with building back better together.”
Wishart, the chairman of the Commons Scottish Affairs committee, demanded: “Let’s have that referendum.”
The PM answered: “On what?”
After the clash, Wishart said: “Over the course of the Brexit chaos the Tories have consistently ignored Scotland and its wishes – it is no surprise support for independence has increased.
“There are now 17 consecutive polls that show the majority of people would vote Yes in an independence referendum.
“If the Prime Minister wants to continue with his ‘Trump tactics’ and keep his head in the sand over this then he is proving our point and making it clear that Scotland is an afterthought at best to him.