Conservatives wargaming to stop second Scottish independence referendum

Leaked memo lays out strategies to resist pressure from Scottish National Party

Scottish independence
(Image credit: (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images))

The Conservative government is plotting to scupper hopes of a second Scottish independence referendum, a leaked memo suggests.

Bloomberg reports that the 21-page document has been circulated to “a select group of people” including Michael Gove and outlines tactics to delay and then avoid a referendum if the Scottish National Party (SNP) lands a majority in next May’s Scottish Parliament elections.

The memo argues that continuing the current strategy of dismissing calls for another independence vote would be “counterproductive” and that London should instead consider countermeasures such as handing more power to Edinburgh.

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The authors also suggest pressuring Brussels to rule out the idea of Scotland re-joining the EU as an independent nation, as well as advising Scottish Tories to launch “a hard-hitting, attack-focused” campaign against First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The memo was written by Hanbury Strategy, a political consultancy firm set up by Ameet Gill, David Cameron’s one-time director of strategy, and Paul Stephenson, former director of communications for Vote Leave.

A poll published last week by Ipsos Mori in partnership with STV News put support for Scottish independence at 58%, the highest level ever. Almost two-thirds (64%) of more than 1,000 respondents said that Downing Street should allow another independence referendum to be held within the next five years if the SNP wins a majority in 2021 - a vote outcome expected by pundits. Only a third (34%) said the UK government should not allow a second vote.

The last time a public opinion poll showed a majority of Scots against independence “came out at the end of March, with the next poll, in May, showing a tie” and ten subsequent surveys all putting Yes in the lead, Politico reports.

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