CALLS for Scottish independence are being driven by “the likes of Mel Gibson”, UK ministers have been told.

Tory MP Giles Watling, who represents Clacton in Essex, told the House of Commons during Cabinet Office questions that it would be “foolish” to let the Union fall apart.

Watling then suggested a 25-year time frame before another vote on Scotland's place in the Union could be held after making the comment about Gibson, in reference to his role as William Wallace.

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The Hollywood actor starred in and directed the 1995 historical film epic Braveheart, retelling the story of William Wallace, a leader in the first war of Scottish independence.

Watling said he had been “fortunate enough to work in all four corners of this great Union”.

The MP added: “We have fought shoulder to shoulder for freedom and democracy all over the world, not least at Waterloo and the landing beaches of Normandy. Does he agree it would be foolish to let this great and successful union fall apart on a whim, with the aid of the likes of Mel Gibson et cetera?

“Should there not be a legislative timeframe, say 25 years, before another referendum can be held?”

Cabinet Office minister Brendan Clarke-Smith replied: “People across Scotland want both of their Governments to be working together and focusing their attention and resources on the issues that matter to them and not talking about yet another independence referendum.”

It comes as Labour accused the Government of treating the Union like “departmental tennis ball”.

Shadow cabinet office minister Fleur Anderson told MPs the Union “has gone to the Department for Levelling Up, it’s come back to the Cabinet Office, then it has gone back to the Department for Levelling Up and now we hear, it’s potentially staying there”.

She went on: “Does that really say priority for the Union? The former prime minister didn’t call the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales all the time she was in office and that says a lot.

“Will the minister please explain to the people of Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland why this Tory government treats our Union like a departmental tennis ball?”

Clarke-Smith said that “the Prime Minister has telephoned the leaders of the Scottish and Welsh devolved governments on his very first night in office”, adding: “In terms of departmental work, of course, the Cabinet Office is very important that we deal with constitutional elements of that".

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And, the SNP told the Commons that a Prime Minister who denies the wishes of the Scottish people after being rejected by his own party members is “an absolute disgrace”.

The party's Cabinet Office spokesman Brendan O’Hara told the Commons the responsibility for the Union has become a “hot potato and something (to) be passed from department to department”.

He added: “My suggestion would be to the new Secretary of State that he uses this new responsibility to encourage the Prime Minister to respect the mandate that the Scottish people gave last year when they elected the pro-independence majority government with a commitment to holding a referendum.

“And would he agree, as my honourable friend has said, that a Prime Minister who was rejected by his own party members, but who was subsequently put into office, unelected by the members behind him, for them to then deny the wishes of the Scottish people in a free and fair election is an absolute disgrace?”

Clarke-Smith replied: “There is still the mandate in Scotland from the independence referendum, we are very firm on that. And we will continue to support that and prioritise for the Scottish people and not to play politics and navel-gazing at this point in time.”