THE UK Government will “not be legislating to prevent all future referenda”, Michael Gove has said.

The Tory MP's words suggest that Westminster will not legislate to prevent a second Scottish independence referendum in the coming years, as the former head of the Union Unit has recommended.

However, it would be impossible for Westminster to legislate “to prevent all future referenda”, as the principle of parliamentary sovereignty means that no sitting parliament can create a law which a future parliament cannot undo.

READ MORE: Former Union Unit chief demands Tories change law to block indyref2 for 20 years

Gove was giving evidence in front of Westminster’s Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Scottish Affairs Committee, and Welsh Affairs Committee when he made the comment.

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At that meeting, Gove was asked multiple times by the SNP’s longest serving MP, Pete Wishart (above), if the UK Government would facilitate a second independence referendum should the Scottish parliament vote for one. He refused to answer.

Instead, the Tory MP would only say that the focus of Nicola Sturgeon's Scottish Government was on the pandemic and the recovery from its impact.

Praising the Union following a question from a fellow Tory MP about “love” and such political relationships, Gove said: “In terms of the spirit of love, I think, and I stand to be corrected, that people in England think it’s fantastic that Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are part of the United Kingdom.”

He said this was true for Scotland “because of its geography and demography”.

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Andrew Dunlop (above), the Tory peer who authored a report on how Whitehall can adapt in order to preserve the Union, also gave evidence to the same four-committee meeting. This Dunlop Review was completed in November 2019 but remained unpublished until March of this year.

READ MORE: 'Outdated half-measures': Tories' Dunlop review into how to save Union panned

It was to discuss this report and the “Union capability” of the UK Government that the committees were meeting.

In a wide-ranging question and answer session, Dunlop called on Whitehall to ensure there was a “culture change” in order to better serve all the constituent parts of the Union.

He said that Covid had proven to be a “crash course in devolution” for much of the civil service in London and had shown that more awareness of the devolved nations’ powers was needed centrally.

The Tory peer also said that a key test of whether the UK Government is “serious” about saving the Union is whether there is a dedicated full-time minister with that as their brief.

Currently Boris Johnson is the self-appointed Minister for the Union as well as being the Prime Minister. He also chairs a committee of Cabinet ministers which guides Downing Street’s Union strategy.

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Michael Gove chairs a separate committee tasked with working out how to implement the strategic decisions made by its Johnson-chaired partner. He is also the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Minister for the Cabinet Office.

Dunlop said that, while he has great respect for their efforts, a full-time minister should be appointed.

He said: “It’s about transforming an issue and moving the dial. If that’s not a full-time job I don’t know what is.”

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Speaking after the Tory peer, Gove was first asked what had delayed the publication of the Dunlop Review for more than a year.

The Cabinet Office minister said long wait was down to pandemic, although the first UK lockdown was brought in four months after it had been completed in November 2019.

He also said there had been a “desire” to make sure that at the time of publication the Government could show that it had made progress in enacting the report’s recommendations.

Gove said he was not concerned about issues of transparency by acting on recommendations from an unpublished report, and claimed the Government had worked on all of its recommendations.

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However, he also said that “one or two” of these recommendations had been “adapted” and “delivered in a slightly different way”.

One issue which was frequently mentioned across the two-and-a-half-hour session was ways in which the UK Government could work more closely and respectfully with its devolved counterparts.

However, the top Tory dismissed plans for a federal UK, saying he thought a federal system would be more like a “flat share” and less like a “home”.

READ MORE: 'Virtually impossible': Experts pan LibDem plans for a federal United Kingdom

Gove responded with a blank “No” when asked if Boris Johnson made a mistake when he failed to notify the devolved administrations about his UK Government’s change in Covid policy.

When asked if that had contributed to confusion across the UK’s internal borders and if the home nations’ administrations should inform each other of their plans, Gove said: “Yes.”

Though the apparent contradiction in these two answers was highlighted to him, the top Tory refused to budge and again denied that Johnson had made a mistake in not informing devolved governments of his plans.