ALISTER Jack has been criticised for “an embarrassing lack of political awareness” and accused of rewriting the Good Friday Agreement after incorrectly suggesting a border poll on Irish reunification could only take place if 60% of people on the island wanted it, as he set down new conditions for a second independence referendum.

The Scottish Secretary referenced a provision in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement over what conditions could trigger a vote on a united Ireland. The agreement, which helped ­deliver the peace process, says that the Secretary of State is obliged to hold a poll if a majority of voters ­support one. A majority is over 50%.

However, in a move which has infuriated non-Unionist Irish political leaders, Jack suggested the condition was 60% in favour of holding a poll.

Social Democratic and Labour ­Party (SDLP) leader Colum ­Eastwood MP said Jack’s comments suggested a “slim understanding” of both the needs of Scotland and the constitutional settlement in Ireland.

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“The Scotland Secretary has a ­fairly slim understanding of the needs and ambitions of people in Scotland so it’s beyond me why he would try to express a view on the complex relationships and constitutional settlement in Ireland,” said Eastwood.

“Like Dominic Raab, it’s fairly clear he hasn’t read the Good Friday Agreement, otherwise he would know that the British Government has an obligation to hold a Unity Referendum at any time that it appears likely that a majority of people would support it. These comments show an embarrassing lack of political awareness.”

Fine Gael’s Neale Richmond commented: “As per the Good Friday Agreement, any decision to call a border poll is one for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

“It is their prerogative to call one if there is evidence that there is no longer a majority support for ­Northern Ireland remaining in the Union.

“It is assumed any decision will be based on electoral results. There is no mention in the Good Friday Agreement of opinion polls or the figure of 60%. Any border poll would simply require a margin of 50% plus one to pass.”

Sinn Féin MP John Finucane also attacked Jack’s comments.

“It is not for a Scottish Tory to ­rewrite the Good Friday ­Agreement,” said Finucane. “The conversation ­surrounding Irish unity is well ­underway and it will be the people of Ireland who will decide our future in a unity referendum.

“People rightfully want to be in ­control of their own future and elect their own representatives to act in their best interests. There is an ­alternative to this narrow Tory ­agenda centred exclusively around the establishment in England.”

Finucane added: “Sinn Féin firmly believes that the people will have the opportunity within this decade to freely choose new constitutional and political arrangements on this island, as underpinned by the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement.

“The Good Friday Agreement stipulates that when ‘the British Secretary of State deems that sufficient support may be present for constitutional change that s/he will call a border poll’.

“It commits both the Irish and ­British governments in the event of a simple majority (50% plus one) in favour of Irish unity to immediately legislate for it.”

Jack was accused of moving the goalposts on a Scottish independence vote after setting out new conditions to be met before the UK ­Government would agree to a re-run of the ­referendum.

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In August he said Whitehall would grant another ballot on the Union if polls consistently showed 60% of ­voters supported one. He ­unexpectedly added further ­prerequisites on Tuesday, ruling out another referendum for at least 25 years, which he deemed to be a ­“generation”.

“The trigger in my mind, and I look to the situation in Northern Ireland for instance, if 60% of people wanted a referendum and that position was sustained for over 12 months, then I can see there would be a desire for a referendum,” he told STV at the ­Conservative Party conference.

“But [referendums] can’t come every five or six or seven years. The SNP would only have to win once if we just keep asking the question.”

Jack had previously suggested a generation could be “25 or 40 years”. Under the terms of the GFA, any ­possible second border poll should be at least seven years after the first.

The document says the Northern ­Ireland secretary can call a poll “if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those ­voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the UK and form part of a united ­Ireland”.

The UK Government has been ­approached for comment.