A TORY Government at Westminster is in no position to oppose handing powers to Holyrood to hold an independence referendum, according to a former First Minister.

Henry McLeish (pictured below), who helped draft the Scotland Act which re-established the Scottish Parliament, condemned statements by Ruth Davidson and Jeremy Hunt that the SNP must win a majority in the 2020 election for the necessary powers to be granted under the legislation.

He said the current “Brexit fiasco”and the prospect of the election of Boris Johnson by 160,000 Tory members to become Prime Minister had removed the UK Government’s “political, moral and constitutional” authority over the Scotland.

The National: Henry McLeish

“After the breakdown in government at Westminster the Brexit fiasco and the sheer futility of this Conservative leadership contest Westminster Tories are not in any position to lecture Scotland on how it runs its elections, or indeed how it handles its democracy,” he told The National.

“This is a bankrupt government at Westminster, bankrupt in terms of political, moral and constitutional authority. And this will look to most Scots like another attempt to undermine the credibility and integrity of devolution.

“The Brexit process was shocking in the manner in which the Conservative Government at Westminster completely ignored the wishes of the Scottish Parliament, the wishes of the Scottish Government and the wishes of the Scottish people who voted Remain.”

McLeish spoke out after Hunt said he would reject a request from the Scottish Government for a Section 30 order to enable Holyrood hold a second independence referendum if he became Prime Minister unless three conditions were met.

He listed these as an SNP majority at Holyrood, a timescale for a new currency and ruling out a “wildcat” referendum.

The Foreign Secretary (pictured below), who is currently Johnson’s nearest rival to succeed May as Tory leader and PM, set out his position in a newspaper article on Sunday.

The National:

Last week Davidson insisted the SNP must win a majority at Holyrood in 2021, on a manifesto commitment of having an independence referendum, if a request for a Section 30 order was to be successful.

She told the BBC: “If she [Sturgeon] puts it in a manifesto that she’s going to hold another referendum and she wins a majority outright, then she can negotiate with the UK Government in the same way as happened last time. But she doesn’t get to just, in the middle of a Parliament where she’s lost her majority, get to stick her hand up and say I’m going to re-run this referendum again and again until I get the result I want.”

Davidson’s comments contradicted remarks made in 2011, where she said if the “Greens and the SNP, and the SSP or any of the other parties who have expressed an interest in independence” can “make a coalition, can make a majority, can get the votes in the Parliament, then they’ll vote through a referendum”.

McLeish said the Tories’s insistence that the SNP must win a majority in order to be able to get the powers to hold an independence vote could well backfire by providing a rallying call for the SNP ahead of the 2020 election.

“This could massively backfire. If they continue to treat Scotland with contempt many voters may say 'if you want a SNP overall majority that’s how we will vote',” he said.

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“Much is being said about the elevation of possibly Boris Johnson to the throne. Apart from being selected by an electorate of 160,000 of possibly the most unrepresentative group, we are going to be left in a situation where Johnson is moving towards English nationalism and a contempt for Scots. He’s never had a good thing to say about Scots.”

Nicola Sturgeon unveiled plans in April for a second independence referendum before May 2021.

Last month Brexit Secretary Mike Russell introduced the Referendum Bill setting out the rules of a possible new vote.

The legislation is expected to be passed in Holyrood before the end of the year.

However, the First Minister has not yet formally requested a Section 30 order which would be required for a referendum to be legally binding. She has said she will seek one at an appropriate time.