THE former speaker of the Commons, John Bercow, has said it is “perfectly possible” that Scotland may decide to hold an independence referendum without the consent of Westminster, arguing circumstances have changed since 2014.

Bercow made the argument as he spoke at an event in Edinburgh. He suggested the UK Government would be unable to resist a second vote if there is evidence a majority of Scots want it.

Bercow’s comments coincided with a warning by the SNP’s longest serving parliamentarian about the possible negative impact of a consultative referendum, should Boris Johnson continue to refuse handing powers to Holyrood to hold a new vote.

Pete Wishart, the MP for Perth and North Perthshire, argued holding a ballot without agreement from the Prime Minister could reduce backing for independence.

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Bercow, asked if there was any way Scotland could become independent without a referendum, told the audience: “It is perfectly possible at some stage – I’m not saying it will happen – but it’s perfectly possible at some stage that if people in Scotland feel that they are being arbitrarily and unreasonably prevented from having a referendum that they obviously want, they might decide to hold a ballot of their own even if it’s not authorised by Westminster.”

Further commenting, the Herald reported that Bercow added such a referendum would not be legally conclusive, “but politically it would be very significant – very significant indeed”.

“It would change the facts on the ground,” he added. “I’m not arguing for that, but I think that’s not out of the bounds of possibility.”

Wishart (below), writing on his blog, pointed to recent opinion polls which have put between 50 and 52 percent of Scots favouring independence, as voters change their minds because of opposition to Brexit.

The National:

“Where our new support for independence has been hard won it remains tenuous. Our new recruits have come mainly from former No voting remainers and they are looking to see if we are worthy of their continuing support. Talk of UDIs, ‘dissolved unions’ and wildcat referendums terrify them half to death and pursuing any such strategy could very well return them back to the Nos,” he stated.

“Just now all the talk of is of an ‘advisory referendum’. This is now being presented as a cost free strategy to break the deadlock. The suggestion is that the Scottish Government simply legislate to hold a referendum and in doing so provoke a legal challenge from the UK Government.

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“The supporters of this approach suggest that nothing will be lost if this is judged illegal and that all could be gained if successful in court. I’m afraid that the suggestion that this course of action would be consequence free is simply fanciful.”

Bercow also argued support for independence would “exponentially rise” if Johnson continued to “bunker down” and dismiss requests for a second referendum.

At the event organised by Topping & Company Booksellers, he said: “I think it will be quite interesting to see whether over a sustained period there is evidence of a majority of people in Scotland definitely wanting that further referendum, and/or definitely wanting Scottish independence.

“If that happens, it just seems to me that although legally a government might be able to resist, sometimes legal facts can clash with political reality. My view, by the way, for what it’s worth, on Scottish independence is simply that ultimately, if you believe in sovereignty, if you believe in self-government, if you believe in the right of people to choose their own destiny, it has to be up to Scotland ultimately to decide. At the point at which they do, I think that decision has to be respected.”