LONDON (Reuters) – A referendum on Scottish independence would jeopardize Britain’s economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic, UK Finance Minister Rishi Sunak said on Monday, campaigning ahead of the election Scottish legislative.
Scotland will vote for its decentralized parliament on Thursday, in which a Scottish National Party (SNP) victory is expected to create more pressure for an independence vote that has so far been rejected by the UK government.
On a campaign visit for the Conservative Party, which runs the UK government but has less political influence in Scotland than the SNP, Sunak stressed the need to complete treatment for COVID-19 and start rebuilding the economy.
“There is a clear risk to this common goal, and it is the uncertainty of a second independence referendum,” he said in a statement released by the Scottish Conservative Party.
“It would divide our country needlessly and at the worst possible time. “
The SNP is expected to win the election and, if it obtains an absolute majority, will step up its efforts to hold another referendum on independence. In 2014, Scotland voted to continue to be part of the UK.
The SNP said any new votes would have to wait until the coronavirus pandemic is over, with the Scottish Parliament deciding when. Speaking on Monday, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon told ITV: “We need to patiently build the case and build majority support for independence.”
The Scottish Parliament is solely responsible for some policy areas, but adheres to the policy set by the UK government in others.
As the law now stands, to hold another referendum legally, Scotland needs permission from the UK parliament, but the SNP could decide to challenge this by holding one anyway and force the UK government to challenge it in court.
(Reporting by William James; Editing by Mark Heinrich)