Poll setback

Sunak rules out Sturgeon’s hope of indy deal

Nicola Sturgeon: had hoped to reach a compromise

Tory leadership favourite Rishi Sunak has dismissed Nicola Sturgeon’s hopes of securing a “compromise” deal on independence.

Despite previously saying a Scottish referendum should take place after Brexit, Mr Sunak has “no intention:” of holding anothe referendum, said his spokesman.

Scotland’s First Minister today proposed a compromise with the former Chancellor should he replace Boris Johnson at the helm of the Conservative Party and in Number 10.

Ms Sturgeon seized on an interview he gave in 2017 in which he said: “It seems hard to block a referendum but we should push the timing until after Brexit so the choice is clearer for people. A good deal will strengthen the case for the Union.”

At the launch of the second in her series of documents on independence, she said: “Well, it’s after Brexit so maybe, if he is to hold to what he said before, there may be some room for discussions there if he emerges as the winner.”

But a spokesman for Mr Sunak’s campaign said: “Rishi has absolutely no intention of holding another divisive independence referendum.

Our economic response to the pandemic, including the protection of millions of jobs through the furlough scheme, and the recent interventions Rishi made as chancellor to help households with the cost of living, are evidence of the importance of working together to solve the collective challenges our United Kingdom faces.

“We must all focus on rebuilding our economy to ensure that the next generation of British people have more opportunities than the last.”

Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt
Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt likely to be final two

The First Minister repeated her earlier comments that she would not “allow Scottish democracy to be the prisoner of a UK prime minister”, claiming Scotland suffered from a democratic deficit because it is represented by a UK government it did not elect.

Her critics point out that other parts of the UK are regularly represented by governments they did not vote for but accept that the majority vote will prevail.

Ms Sturgeon has set 19 October 2023 as the date for another referendum but has insisted it has to be legal. She has also indicated a willingness to negotiate with the UK government to get official consent.

“In terms of the detail I will be open to negotiation and in any negotiation you have to be prepared to compromise,” she said.

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Mr Sunak maintained his lead in the race to be the next Tory leader after topping the ballot in the second round of the contest. Penny Mordaunt is in a strong position to reach the last two who will go to a run-off ballot of Conservative members.

The trade minister and former Defence Secretary has been installed as the bookies’ favourite after polling suggested that she would win a head-to-head against any of her rivals.

Suella Braverman has been eliminated after coming bottom with 27 votes, five fewer than she achieved during the first round.

Mr Sunak came first on 101 votes with Ms Mordaunt on 83 and Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, third on 64. Kemi Badenoch came fourth on 49. Tom Tugendhat was fifth on 32.

The winner of the vote is expected to be announced on 5 September. Mr Johnson has said that he will tender his resignation as prime minister to the Queen on the following day.

The five surviving leadership hopefuls will appear in a Channel Four debate on Friday.

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