MICHAEL Gove has described Ian Blackford as a “good friend” and claimed he doesn’t want a second independence referendum “any time soon” in a new documentary on the state of the Union.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster told The Telegraph film that there won’t be a new vote on Scotland’s future before the next General Election, and questioned whether the SNP’s Westminster leader would want one.

During the interview Gove also insisted that Boris Johnson should spend more time in Scotland and defended his popularity here – despite endless opinion polls finding the Prime Minister is not well liked north of the Border.

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Asked whether there would be a referendum on the SNP’s timescale – within the life of this Holyrood parliament – Gove said he didn’t think there would be.

“I don’t think so,” Gove told the interviewer. “Ian’s a lovely chap. And a good friend. Ian enjoys being in Westminster, so much, I suspect he probably wouldn’t want a referendum any time soon either. He’s a lovely part of the Westminster furniture.”

The SNP have been contacted for comment.

Elsewhere in the documentary, the Tory minister said it’s “foolish” to talk about a new Scottish independence referendum at this time – an often repeated line during the Holyrood election campaign.

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“We’re recovering from Covid, we’re still dealing with the health challenges that the Covid crisis has generated, and it seems to me to be at best reckless, at worst folly, to try to move the conversation on to constitutional division when people expect us to be working together in order to deal with these challenges,” he said.

At PMQs this afternoon Gove’s comments are likely to be brought up by Blackford. Today marks five years since the 2016 Brexit referendum, at which 62% of Scots voted to remain in the EU but were dragged out of the bloc regardless.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wrote for Politico on the anniversary, sending a message to EU citizens living in Scotland.

The National:

Sturgeon said: “Like all countries, we are thinking deeply about how to build a better society and a better world after the crisis is over.

“And for Scotland, I firmly believe our best future lies in once again joining the EU, which we were a part of for 47 years — this time as an independent country fully committed to the shared endeavor of EU membership and to our common European values.

“The people of Scotland may have lost — for now — the rights and responsibilities that come with EU citizenship, but we have not lost our commitment to European values. In the meantime, my heartfelt plea to all EU citizens in Scotland is this: You are part of us; please stay.”