A LEADING columnist in a Tory-supporting newspaper has called for Boris Johnson to agree to a second independence referendum, arguing Scotland can't be forced to stay in the Union.

Dan Hodges said the Prime Minister was acting like a "colonial potentate" and argued the strategy he was pursuing – simply saying no to a new plebiscite – was failing and boosting support for independence.

Referring to Johnson's visit to Scotland on Thursday and his declaration that "I think endless talk about a referendum ... is completely irrelevant now to the concerns of most people", Hodges pointed out such a stance was not working.

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The columnist also went on to argue that a new referendum would happen and the longer the UK Government put off a new vote, the more certain the Yes side's victory.

"This morning one thing's clear. If they carry on as they are, those who have cast themselves as the defenders of the United Kingdom may as well tear the blue from the Union Flag now, and send it to Nicola Sturgeon to wear as a scarf during her triumphal independence parade," he wrote in the Mail on Sunday.

The National:

Boris Johnson visiting the Lighthouse laboratory at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow last Thursday.            Photo Wattie Cheung

"Like it or not, the referendum is going to happen. And the longer it's delayed, and the longer politicians in Westminster are seen to be trying to delay it, the more certain it is it will be lost. 

"Another glaring failure is the inability to recognise the debate surrounding Scottish independence – just like the Brexit debate – is not actually the preserve of an entitled political elite.

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"Those who oppose a referendum are currently acting as if they are discussing Scotland's future within the rarefied confines of the Carlton Club."

Hodges also went on to argue that there was a sense in London that people in Scotland were ignorant of what "clever constitutional tricks" the Union side were using to "spike the SNP's guns" and stop the independence. 

"Every article, every speech, every statement is predicated in the same way – what clever constitutional trick can we, the opponents of independence, come up with to spike the SNP's guns," he said.

"And they seem oblivious to the fact everyone in Scotland is witness to these machinations. More powers for Holyrood. A Constitutional Convention. Pre-negotiation of the terms of withdrawal.

The National:

Boris Johnson on the BBC Andrew Marr Show earlier this month

"Each one is a fiendishly clever ruse. And each one contains the same fatal flaw. The people of Scotland know perfectly well it's a ruse. They can see it represents an attempt to guide Scottish voters by the nose to an outcome pre-determined by the panjandrums of Whitehall."

He added: "But the fact is the constitutional settlement the people of Scotland voted for in 2014 no longer exists. And they too have the right to decide if they want to take back control of their borders and their laws.

"Because if we deny them that right, then what precisely is it the defenders of the Union are actually defending? The act of Union is voluntary. That's what makes it work. It isn't enforced with guns, or even laws. It's maintained by the people's will."

Hodges, who said he did not want to see the Union collapse, said the "Prime Minister seems intent on fulfilling every caricature Nicola Sturgeon seeks to paint of him" adding: "He is indeed acting like colonial potentate. 'I genuinely don't think the people of this country want to spend more time on constitutional wrangling – they had a referendum only six years ago which is not by my understanding, a generation,' he decreed last week."

He added: "This is how the Union needs to be defended. With humility and good grace. There should be no attempt to bind Scottish hands. If the people of Scotland wish to remain in the Union we will all be the stronger for it.

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"But if they don't, then good luck to them. Both nations will find a way to co-exist and prosper. The time has come for Boris to again follow his Brexit instincts. Trust the people. Let them have their say. Give Scotland her referendum."

Johnson has repeatedly refused to agree a new referendum, arguing earlier this month a second vote on independence should not happen until 2055.

Some 20 successive polls have recorded majority support for independence with a couple putting support at a record 58%.

Pollsters have cited Johnson's toxicity among Scots, including his pursuit of a hard Brexit they opposed, as among the reasons for the opinion shift.

They have also given a poor approval rating to his handling of the pandemic, believing the First Minister has performed better during the crisis.