A TOP Tory minister has dodged a question about rumoured plots to “rig” indyref2 to beat the independence movement.

Penny Mordaunt, the new Leader of the House, remained tight-lipped when she was confronted about newspaper reports that Liz Truss is planning to change the rules on a future independence referendum by baking in a disadvantage to Yes.

Mordaunt, who was eliminated in the late stages of the Tory leadership campaign, refused to comment on the rumoured plans, which would require a majority of the electorate to vote Yes for Scottish independence to win the poll.

Fool me once? 

It would make indyref2 different from recent referendums – including the 2014 poll and the 2016 vote on Brexit – and echoes the fateful devolution referendum in 1979.

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James Callaghan’s government was toppled when SNP MPs revolted over the outcome of the vote which required the side in favour of a Scottish Assembly to achieve the support of 40% of the total electorate – not just those who voted.

Deidre Brock, who has taken over from Pete Wishart as the SNP’s shadow Commons leader, asked: “Newspaper reports caused quite a stir in Scotland over the weekend by reporting her Government plans to introduce a Referendum Bill setting out the rules under which it would permit the Scottish people a choice in their future again.

“Will [Mordaunt] confirm that that is in fact their intention? I’d remind her that if the arbitrary threshold suggested was applied to the Conservative leadership election, then [Truss] would not be Prime Minister and the campaigns to leave the EU as well as the Conservatives’ 2019 election bid would have fallen way short in England let alone in Scotland.

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“Clearly this Government hasn’t learned anything from the last time Scots were cheated out of a result of a referendum in 1979.

“The good news for us is that such desperate attempts to rig our independence referendum really expose the desperation in the Unionist ranks.

“They know that when we hold that referendum, we’re going to win it.”

A 'schoolgirl error' 

Mordaunt dodged the question saying instead Brock was not focusing on the issues “that matter to the people of Scotland”, joking she had made a “schoolgirl” error in preparing for her first session as Commons Leader.

She added: “All members of the Cabinet believe in holding to the results of referendums and I think that is a very encouraging thing.

“We remain committed to our manifesto and future business will be announced in the usual way.”

Tory backbencher Andrea Leadsom picked up on the issue later, asking if Mordaunt was committed to denying the SNP “any possibility whatsoever for doing anything to tear apart our great United Kingdom”.

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Mordaunt replied: “On this side of this house, we respect the results of referendums.”

Speaking after the exchange, Brock told The National: “This new Conservative government seems as intent on ignoring the will of the Scottish people as its predecessor.

“As their arguments to block a second independence referendum fall apart, it seems the Tory party now wants to gerrymander the rules of a future vote rather than respect democracy.”

Speaking on BBC’s The Nine on Wednesday, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack categorically said there would be no change to the rules of a future referendum, adding: “We don’t see any need to make any adjustments around the rules of referenda at all because, as I say, we’re focused on delivering for people, not having constitutional upheaval through a referendum campaign.”