BORIS Johnson’s position on a second referendum remains “unchanged” following the announcement of the Scottish Government’s route map to a vote next year, Downing Street said.

A No 10 spokesperson said the Prime Minister would “carefully study” the proposal outlined by Nicola Sturgeon, which includes the Lord Advocate seeking a view from the UK Supreme Court on whether Holyrood has the powers to hold a vote. 

Speaking to reporters as he travelled to Madrid for the Nato summit, Johnson also said he would study the plans but added “the focus of the country should be on building a stronger economy”.

“I haven’t seen exactly what she’s said yet,” he said.

“We will study it very carefully and we will respond properly

“The focus of the country should be on building a stronger economy, that’s what we’re doing with our plan for a stronger economy and I certainly think that we’ll be able to have a stronger economy and a stronger country together.”

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A Downing Street spokesman said: “Our position remains unchanged that both ours and the Scottish Government’s priority should be working together with a relentless focus on the issues that we know matter to people up and down the country.

“That remains our priority, but a decision has been taken by the First Minister, so we will carefully study the details of the proposal, and the Supreme Court will now consider whether to accept the Scottish Government’s Lord Advocate referral”.

Asked whether the Prime Minister would open negotiations for independence in Scotland if Scots vote for it in a referendum in October 2023, the official said: “We’re obviously not going to get into hypotheticals”.

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The spokesman was not sure whether Johnson had received a letter from Nicola Sturgeon, in which she called for negotiations on a Section 30 order.

He added the Prime Minister “continues to think it’s not the time to be talking about a referendum, but as I say, it’s important that we carefully study the details of the proposal and it’s for the Supreme Court now to look at the Lord Advocate referral”.

Following Sturgeon's statement at Holyrood, opposition politicians criticised the referendum plans. 

The National:

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said his party would not participate in a "potentially illegal" referendum.

He added: “We won’t play Nicola Sturgeon’s games. We won’t take part in a pretend poll when there is real work to be done."

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the First Minister’s timing was wrong in launching the campaign since the covid pandemic was still causing people to lose their lives.

He said: “For households across Scotland, it doesn’t feel like this crisis is over.

“Isn’t it the case that the pandemic Nicola that said she wanted us to pull us through is gone and the partisan Nicola Sturgeon that wants to divide our country is back, pursuing a referendum that two-thirds of Scots don’t want right now.”

Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Alex Cole-Hamilton asked Sturgeon why her “fixation with breaking up the United Kingdom will always trump the needs of the people in the country”.