Nicola Sturgeon and her Cabinet discussed the impact of the general election on Brexit yesterday – but did not consider what effect the result of the vote would have on plans for a second independence referendum.
The first minister and senior members of her team agreed there could now be “a substantial opportunity for alternatives to a hard Brexit” following the Conservatives’ failure to win an overall majority, a spokesman confirmed.
But when asked if the Scottish Cabinet had considered the impact of the election on its referendum plans, after the SNP lost 21 Commons seats, the spokesman said: “There was no discussion, no.
“There was a discussion of the outcome of the election in relation to Brexit, but no specific discussion of a referendum.”
The SNP leader has already pledged to “reflect carefully” on the election result and has conceded plans for a second vote on leaving the UK were “undoubtedly” a factor in the result.
Her spokesman insisted he was “not going to pre-empt the First Minister” on the issue.
Pressed on why Ms Sturgeon is calling for amendments to be made to the UK’s Brexit plans in the wake of the election, but has not yet announced any change to her proposals for a second independence referendum, the spokesman said: “The fact remains the SNP won a majority of seats in Scotland, Theresa May and the Conservatives did not win a majority of seats in the UK, so there is a difference, there is a distinction to be drawn there.”
But opposition parties were furious at the lack of discussion surrounding independence yesterday, and urged Ms Sturgeon to take another referendum “off the table”.
Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: “Separation has been the centrepiece of her personal agenda, and its absence from discussions at cabinet is evidence of her complete denial on the issue.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “The SNP should hold a debate in parliament next week so that MSPs can vote to rule out another independence referendum for the next four years.”
Labour business manager James Kelly said it was “staggering” cabinet discussions did not touch on independence.
Mr Kelly also alleged money raised for a second independence referendum was spent on general election campaigning and has written to the Electoral Commission calling for an investigation.
He claimed: “It was perfectly clear their fundraising was for a second independence referendum.
“If they are now claiming it was for general election fundraising then they have misled the public, and that is incredibly serious.”
But an SNP spokesman denied the claims and said money raised by the fund was ring-fenced for a second referendum.
He said: “Money raised on ref.scot is ring-fenced for the purpose stated on the website – and we haven’t been actively raising money on that website since the election was called in April.
“Our general election appeal will pay for election campaign expenditure.”