Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has ramped up efforts to push for a second referendum on Scottish independence before the end of 2023. Ms Sturgeon’s party, the SNP, signed a controversial power-sharing agreement with the Scottish Greens that includes a commitment to hold a second referendum “within the current parliamentary session”. Last week Scottish Secretary Alister Jack even claimed that Boris Johnson would give the green light to a rerun of the 2014 vote if 60 percent of Scots wanted one.
He insisted however that such support would need to be demonstrated in polls over “a reasonable period of time” and added that he does not think the backing is there at present.
Influential Scottish entrepreneur Sir Tom, who did not publicly back either Yes or No vote in 2014, warned Scots against a second referendum in 2016.
He also noted hypocrisy in the SNP’s pro-European and pro-independence stance.
Six days after the UK voted to leave the EU Sir Tom told The Herald: “I really do think it would be the wrong time to bring up another independence referendum at this point.
“I’m not saying never, just not now.
“There’s enough uncertainty for us all to deal with.
“I can’t quite understand why the Government wants to take us out of one union which is our biggest trading union but keep us in another one.”
Sir Tom, who became Scotland’s first home-grown billionaire in 2007 before losing a slice of his fortune in the financial crisis, also dismissed claims Scotland’s overwhelming vote to remain in the EU boosted a case for independence.
Writing in the Daily Record in April this year he said: “We need bold, ambitious industrial policies.
“In my opinion, we need to wake up and realise now is not the time to be gambling on an independence referendum.
“If the block grant goes in the midst of recovery from the pandemic, how do we pay for any of this in the short to medium-term and all the politicians’ promises?
“Not one party has offered a credible economic strategy to deliver the economic growth we need to offer all our citizens the opportunity to thrive.”
Instead of seeking imminent independence Sir Tom claimed the Scottish Government could reform “tired old systems” to work for the people of Scotland.
He explained: “When furlough disappears a wall of unemployment is coming our way and we need to act, think and work together to build back better.
“To do so we need to capture the stories of innovation and embrace them, change our tired systems and model those changes […] on the customer needs, not the systems.
“Every individual we come across in the public sector is, I believe, up for change, they simply need to be empowered to make that change.”