The government of Boris Johnson will not grant a new Scottish independence referendum before the 2024 general election, Michael Gove has said in an interview for The Telegraph.
As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was asked whether there was "any circumstance" which might prompt the Prime Minister to approve such a vote before the May elections, Gove said:
"I don't think so."
When pressed further to clarify his position that "there will be no referendum before the 2024 election", he replied: "I can't see it."
Gove was interviewed for a Telegraph documentary about the Scottish independence debate along with a spate of other political figures, such as Gordon Brown, the former prime minister, Ian Blackford, the SNP's Westminster leader, and Jackie Baillie, the Scottish Labour deputy leader.
Gove offered an explanation as to why he believed that Johnson would not grant IndyRef2 before the 2024 election.
"The Prime Minister is completely focused on making sure that, for the lifetime of this parliament, we increase economic opportunity, we provide people with the chance to make more of their lives, take control of their futures. And that's quite rightly what the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom's focus should be," said the Cabinet Office minister.
He went on to underscore that he deemed it “foolish” to talk about a referendum amid the current health crisis.
"It seems to me to be at best reckless, at worst folly, to try to move the conversation on to constitutional division when people expect us to be working together in order to deal with these challenges."
This comes as since her landslide in the Scottish elections last month, First Minister and Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon has argued that the SNP win of one seat short of an overall majority has granted her a "democratic mandate" for a second referendum.
In her victory speech, Sturgeon said the election result showed that another referendum was the "will of the country", adding:
"And given that outcome, there is simply no democratic justification whatsoever for Boris Johnson, or indeed for anyone else, seeking to block the right of the people of Scotland to choose our own future."
Sturgeon has indicated she wanted to stage a rerun of the 2014 vote halfway through her five-year term, by autumn 2023. The politician acknowledged that she would demand a referendum only “when the crisis of Covid has passed”.
Under Article 30 of the Scotland Act, the First Minister must seek authorisation from the UK prime minister for a referendum. Prime Minister Johnson has repeatedly rejected calls for a second Scottish independence vote, stressing the previous vote had already resolved the issue once and for all.
Scotland held an independence plebiscite in September 2014, when 55 percent of voters cast ballots in favour of remaining in the United Kingdom.