Poll question 'interesting'

Gove hints at Scots living across UK getting indyref vote

Michael Gove

Michael Gove: sparked indyref talk

Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove has ramped up the prospects of a second independence referendum after suggesting Scots living in the rest of the UK might get a vote.

He described the idea by former Labour and Respect MP George Galloway as “interesting”, prompting speculation that he was softening on calls for a poll.

But some nationalists claim it is a way of garnering pro-union Scots to reject independence. Angus Robertson, the SNP’s former Westminster chief, said that with polls showing a majority in favour of independence the idea of changing the electorate “looks desperate and undemocratic.”

Scottish Government constitution minister Michael Russell said unionists were already trying to “nobble the question” on any ballot paper.

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The arguments began when Mr Galloway claimed on social media: “I’ll tell you this, if there’s to be a second IndyRef, then 795,000 Scots living elsewhere in the UK must have a vote.”

Mr Galloway, who is currently leading the anti-independence Alliance for Unity party, added: “If UK expats can vote in general elections from Spain then an existential question like Separatism must be answered by all Scots.”

Mr Gove responded: “Interesting question.”

His government has been shaken by a series of polls showing support for independence. The latest put Yes on 55% and was the sixth in a row to show a majority in favour of separation. Several Cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister and Chancellor have visited Scotland in recent weeks.

Mr Gove is said to be behind discussions to find a new strategy for the union involving a cross-party group of high profile Scots including Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, the former Scottish Labour first minister, and Danny Alexander, the former Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury.

Richard Leonard, Scottish Labour leader, today said he was not interested in joining any “electoral pacts”.

SNP depute leader Keith Brown said: “Michael Gove now appears to accept a referendum is going to happen – but the fact he seems to be endorsing anything George Galloway says is the surest sign yet of the rising panic in Downing Street at the surging support for independence.”

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A spokesman for the UK Government cabinet office said: “The UK Government’s position is very clear. The people of Scotland voted in 2014 to remain part of the UK.

“Our focus is on working with the devolved administrations to make sure that the power of the UK economy is used to help all parts of the UK recover from the Covid pandemic.”

In the 2014 independence referendum, all EU or Commonwealth citizens living in Scotland and over the age of 16 could vote. The Referendums (Scotland) Act 2020 features the same rules.

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Comment: Hapless unionists driving Scotland towards independence

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