Britain softens stance on Scottish independence as momentum wanes

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has vowed to hold another referendum on independence in the wake of Brexit.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has vowed to hold another referendum on independence in the wake of Brexit.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - The British government will not block a second Scottish independence referendum if it is the "settled will" of voters north of the border, according to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove.

"The principle that the people of Scotland, in the right circumstances, can ask that question again is there," Mr Gove told the Sunday Mail.

His remarks soften Westminster's stance on the prospect of a plebiscite before the May 2024 general election, which Mr Gove had previously all but ruled out, but come against a backdrop of waning support for secession since the start of the year, making a vote unlikely anyway.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has vowed to hold another referendum on independence in the wake of Brexit but not until the country has emerged from the coronavirus pandemic.

Still, while she has broadly won praise for her handling of the crisis so far, an economic revival is key to preparing for a vote.

Scotland has diverged from Britain over school closures, social distancing and the legal requirement for masks in stores and public buildings. The administration in Edinburgh, like those in Wales and Northern Ireland, is responsible for public health policy.