Thursday, 2 Feb 2023

English could 'let Scots go' if Sturgeon's referendum calls persist

English could say ‘let them go’ to the Scots if Nicola Sturgeon’s referendum calls carry on, claims former first minister of Northern Ireland Arlene Foster

  • Baroness Foster warned English could tire of intense independence campaign
  • She said Scottish independence would make the four nations a ‘far lesser place’ 
  • Voters need to understand better the benefits of being in the UK, she argued

Former Northern Ireland first minister Arlene Foster has warned the Union between the UK’s four nations could be lost due to constant calls for a Scottish referendum.

Baroness Foster, who has recently become chair of new organisation Together UK in support of the Union, said there is a chance the English could say ‘let them go’ as they become tired of Nicola Sturgeon’s intense independence campaign. 

She said: ‘What worries me sometimes… [is people] saying that ‘if Scotland wants to go, let them go.

‘It’s not just Scotland that will lose out if they go. The rest of us will all lose out as well… we need to have a wider conversation about that, particularly in England’, she told the Telegraph.

Baroness Arlene Foster (pictured) has warned the Union between the UK’s four nations could be weakened because voters are growing tired of constant calls for a Scottish referendum

Scotland’s First Minister’s battle to hold a second Scottish independence referendum took at hit after the Supreme Court unanimously ruled she cannot legislate for one without approval from Westminster.

Ms Sturgeon conceded that she will not try to stage a ‘wildcat’ vote – acknowledging that any route to independence must be ‘lawful’.

She said, however, that the Scottish National Party (SNP) will fight the next general election – expected in 2024 – on the issue of independence.

A recent poll showed that backing for Scottish independence has risen after Ms Sturgeon was blocked from holding a referendum.

Support for the SNP’s separatist drive was at 52 per cent excluding ‘don’t knows’ – compared to 48 per cent who wanted to keep the union. 

A comparable poll on September 18 last year found 44 per cent would vote yes and 47 per cent no. 

Baroness Foster has warned that this ‘never ending’ campaign could threaten the unity between the UK’s nations, as people have become fed up of such forceful separatism. 

She said that it was important to understand that if Scotland or Northern Ireland left the Union it would make the UK a ‘far lesser place’.

She added that she has heard people argue that if they want to leave then ‘why are we stopping them’ instead of putting in the effort to encourage them to stay. 

Nicola Sturgeon (pictured) has said that the SNP will fight the next general election – expected in 2024 – on the issue of independence

The latest poll put support for the SNP’s separatist drive at 52 per cent excluding ‘don’t knows’ – compared to 48 per cent who wanted to keep the union

Last month, Baroness Foster became chair for Together UK Foundation, which is aimed at campaigning for the Union and will challenge growing separatism.

She said that voters need to understand better the benefits of being in the UK. 

‘We have to have those conversations as to why the UK is important for all the parts of the UK, not just the parts that there are separatists in.’  

She added that Unionists also needed to engage better with Britain’s international allies to remind them of the importance of a unified UK ‘not least from a Nato point of view, from a defence point of view, from a security point of view’.

She highlighted the US as a crucial ally due to a high number of American-Irish voters there.    

Rishi Sunak has apparently dropped former PM Boris Johnson’s ‘Project Love’, which pushed for voters in all four nations to support the Union, according to the Telegraph.

Instead, Sunak is focusing on the government’s involvement in each of the four nations, in an attempt to show that Westminster plays an important role for all voters in the UK. 

Meanwhile, Labour are expected to unveil its own proposals tomorrow for saving the Union.

The review, which has been led by Gordon Brown, will recommend replacing the House of Lords with an upper house of nations and regions and to give local regions and devolved administrations more powers. 

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