Boris Johnson has rejected calls to give the Scottish Government power to hold a second independence referendum, telling MPs “a generation has not elapsed” since 2014.
The prime minister, appearing before the powerful Commons liaison committee, said the union was “a great and beautiful thing” that Scots voted “overwhelmingly” to keep six years ago.
His comments came in response to repeated questions from Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil over whether the UK Government would accede to a Section 30 request from Nicola Sturgeon.
Under Section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998, Westminster must agree to another referendum before it can legally be held.
No Sec30 agreed to for Scotland regardless of our mandates – this moves the dial 👍🏴 https://t.co/YTg6ABm0kk
— Angus B MacNeil MP (@AngusMacNeilSNP) September 16, 2020
Mr Johnson said: “The SNP fought the referendum in 2014 very clearly on the understanding that this was a once in a generation event.
“They voted overwhelmingly, or very substantially, to stay in the union.
“I believe the union is a great and beautiful thing, and I think yes we should keep it.”
Pressed on whether a Section 30 order would be granted, he said: “I don’t think a generation has elapsed since 2014 from my understanding of human biology.”
Mr MacNeil was reprimanded several times by the committee chairman Bernard Jenkin for saying “not true” while the prime minister was responding.
The fiery exchange came after Mr Johnson earlier told MPs that he did not believe the European Union was negotiating in good faith – even though Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told MPs earlier on Wednesday that they were.
“I don’t believe they are”, Mr Johnson said as he defended the Internal Market Bill – which could be used to effectively tear up parts of the Brexit deal and break international law.
The prime minister said the Bill provides a “belt and braces protection” against “extreme interpretations of the (Northern Ireland) protocol” by Brussels.
Responding to the criticism he has faced from his five living predecessors over the Bill, Mr Johnson said he had “enormous respect” for them but “it is the duty of the UK prime minister to protect the integrity of the UK against any extreme and irrational, unreasonable, interpretation of the protocol”.
He went on to say that a trade deal with Brussels was still possible, adding a “no-deal is not what this country wants” and “it’s not what our EU friends and partners want from us”.
“Therefore I have every hope and expectation that that won’t be the outcome.”