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Nicola Sturgeon has remained committed to obtaining permission for a second vote on Scottish independence while leading efforts to eradicate the coronavirus from Scotland. Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick however demanded the First Minister focuses all her strength to the health and economic crisis rather than her “mad” bid to break up the UK. Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Jenrick said: “The SNP themselves, Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond, at the time of the last referendum, said that this was once in a generation, it wouldn’t be returned to for many years.
“I think we should hold them to their word on that.
“I also think, frankly, that any politician who wanted to hold a referendum on a topic like this at this moment in time is mad.
“We’re in the middle of a very serious health situation, a pandemic. And we’re also seeing massive disruption to people’s lives and livelihoods as a result of the economic disruption that has flowed with it.”
Mr Jenrick urged Ms Sturgeon and her colleagues in the SNP to work hard to help Scots struggling with their finances and at risk of unemployment rather than their hopes for independence in the next year.
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The First Minister has already claimed her party would have the mandate for a second referendum should its candidates secure a majority of seats in the 2021 Scottish elections.
The Housing Secretary continued: “The focus for all of us, whether in central government or devolved administrations, should be on battling the virus, moving forward for a more promising and optimistic 2021, and trying to save people’s jobs and livelihoods.
“That’s what we’re focused on in Westminster, it’s what I think the other administrations and local government leaders are focussed on.
“I hope that’s what Nicola Sturgeon and her colleagues in the SNP will focus on as well next year.”
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But despite Westminster dismissing suggestions a new independence referendum could happen soon, a former Yes campaign boss said the new vote could take place as early as 2022.
After SNP Westminster leader said a new referendum would happen next year, Blair Jenkins told BBC Scotland it would be “possible” but it would be more realistic to have a 2022 schedule.
Mr Jenkins said: “If they SNP get a majority next year, which means the people of Scotland what another referendum, they are going to move pretty quickly in that direction,” he said.
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“It’s partly to put down a marker to the UK Government, it’s partly to reassure their own members and supporters, and also to tell the people of Scotland that if they do get a mandate they intend to move quickly.”
“If I was placing a bet today, I think I would place it at more May or June 2022 as a more likely date.”
The 2014 Yes campaign chief executive added: “I think everybody knows, whatever their views on independence, the issue of a second referendum will be a defining issue next year.
“People will be making that decision on May 6 – and if the SNP, or the SNP and Green party, come out of that election with a majority, there will be an unquestionable mandate and there will have to be a second referendum.”
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