BORIS Johnson’s bid to make the issue of independence "disappear" by simply not talking about it is "doomed to fail", the SNP have said.

The Times reported that Downing Street has warned ministers not to talk about the constitutional question amid fears it makes the UK Government appear “needy” and only helps the Yes side.

A UK Government insider also reportedly said that a referendum would “be very hard to win” for the No side.

Ministers were apparently told not to proactively make the case for the Union – and instead focus on policies the Tories think will benefit Scotland.

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Westminster has previously been accused of “muscular Unionism” by opponents, and even those on the Unionist side, by choosing what has been described as a confrontational approach towards devolved nations.

The change in strategy follows Lord McInnes’s appointment as the Prime Minister’s Union adviser.

The former director of the Scottish Conservatives said Tory debate with the SNP over independence was “counterproductive”, adding it kept the issue high on the political agenda.

Now a “senior government figure” has told The Times that Boris Johnson’s wider strategy was to “shut down” the debate around independence.

The senior government figure told the newspaper: “If we were to have another referendum any time soon then it would be very hard to win.

“Sturgeon would present it as a chance for Scotland to rejoin the European Union and independence would almost be the status quo proposition.

“If there is ever to be another referendum it needs to be on our terms where remaining part of the UK is the status quo option, as in 2014.”

The National: SNP MP Mhairi Black said the new Tory strategy would not workSNP MP Mhairi Black said the new Tory strategy would not work

The SNP have criticised the approach, saying if the Prime Minister thinks “sticking your head in the sand” will work then he is “utterly mistaken”.

Mhairi Black MP said: “It tells you all you need to know about the crumbling case for Westminster rule over Scotland that Downing Street is so rattled that it has ordered Tory ministers to stop talking about it.

“But if Boris Johnson thinks adopting an ostrich strategy – simply sticking his head in the sand and hoping the issue will go away – will work, then he is utterly mistaken.

“That approach is doomed to failure because the issue of independence simply is not going away.

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“Boris Johnson can try running away from it but ultimately he cannot hide from democracy and from the cast-iron electoral mandate which exists for an independence referendum.

“The reality is that Scotland is hugely vulnerable under Westminster control, with the Tories' extreme Brexit deal playing a key role in the severe labour shortage facing the UK, the empty supermarket shelves, and the ongoing fuel crisis.

“The only way to properly protect our interests and escape the long-term damage of Brexit and Tory tax cuts is to become an independent country.”


The UK Government has been contacted for comment.