Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has admitted Brexit has “upset” many Scots and has contributed to rising support for independence.
Appearing on the BBC’s Politics Scotland show, Mr Jack was asked about recent opinion polls – including one from Ipsos Mori which put support for independence at a record 58%.
Mr Jack said he had discussed the issue frequently with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and there was a realisation that “hearts and minds” had to be won to defend the Union.
As we come out of the EU, I do acknowledge that part of the problem we have is a lot of people in Scotland are upset that we are leaving the EU. But we need play the long game, show the benefits of the city deals, show the benefits of rebuilding our coastal communities on the back of taking control of our fishing waters.”
Alister Jack, Scottish Secretary
Describing the prime minister as a “strong Unionist”, Mr Jack said: “His position is that we need to keep pressing the case for the Union and the strength of the Union in Scotland. Not just with all the financial support. We realise you have to win hearts as well as minds. That’s very much the position.”
On the subject of Brexit, Mr Jack said: “As we come out of the EU, I do acknowledge that part of the problem we have is a lot of people in Scotland are upset that we are leaving the EU. But we need play the long game, show the benefits of the city deals, show the benefits of rebuilding our coastal communities on the back of taking control of our fishing waters.”
Mr Jack also called for more co-operation from the Scottish Government claiming there was a lack of engagement on UK Government plans for free ports and the creation of better transport links between the nations of the UK.
Earlier he claimed the SNP administration’s complaints of a lack of clarity when it came to funding for Scotland were either “manufactured grievance” or lack of understanding of the Barnett formula.
Mr Jack said the Scottish ministers would have “all the headroom they need” to support business as the country moves to a five-tier lockdown system. The SNP has claimed Scotland has not had as much support as elsewhere in the UK.
Reacting to Mr Jack’s comments, Shadow Scottish Secretary Mhairi Black of the SNP claimed Mr Johnson and EU withdrawal were contributing to rising independence support.
“Boris Johnson is increasing support for independence by imposing an extreme Tory Brexit against Scotland’s will, and attacking devolution with an unprecedented power grab on the Scottish Parliament,” Ms Black said.
“Scotland did not vote for Brexit and we have been completely ignored by Westminster throughout the process. Now we face the worst possible low or no deal outcome from a Tory government we didn’t vote for – proving that Scotland will never be treated as an equal partner in the UK. And this after Scots were falsely promised in 2014 that the only way to protect their EU membership was to vote no.
“It’s no wonder that majority support for independence is at record levels. It is clearer than ever that the only way to protect Scotland’s interests and our place in Europe is to become an independent country. The people of Scotland deserve a choice over our future.”