The prime minister is recklessly ignoring the potential for another Scottish independence referendum in the near future and must plan more proactively for the eventuality, according to a former director of the Scotland Office.
Alun Evans, who had a key role in the department during the period around the 2014 vote, said Boris Johnson’s current stance of rejecting out of hand the idea of another referendum was the “political equivalent of burying your head in the sand”.
In a letter to The Times, Evans said if the Scottish National Party were to an overall majority in the next Holyrood elections, pressure for another referendum – dubbed Indyref 2 – sooner than the three-and-a-half-decade wait suggested recently by Johnson would “simply continue to mount”.
Evans, who was Scotland Office director from 2012-2015, said in the face of an “existential threat” to the United Kingdom, ministers needed to waste no time in proposing further devolution for Scotland.
The offer of home rule – or “Devo Super Max” – should be included on the ballot for any referendum, he said, given that "at the time of the previous referendum, opinion polls showed vast support for such an option".
Evans said the PM should also send a strong signal that a simple majority – such as that delivered in 2016’s referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union – would not be sufficient to deliver Scottish independence.
“The UK government should make clear that agreeing to a future vote on Scottish independence would be predicated on there being a super-majority for such a significant constitutional change, such as an overall majority of all the adult population of Scotland, or even 60% per cent of those voting,” he said.