Politics

Rishi Sunak’s squirming in an STV News interview about Scottish independence is truly a sight to behold

Sunak refuses to confirm if he will accept 'de facto referendum' result on Scottish independence

STV News

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s first visit to Scotland hasn’t gone as smoothly as the Tory leader may have liked, as a video of him struggling to answer straightforward questions about Scottish independence from an STV News journalist went viral online.

Mr Sunak - who travelled up to the country to have a meeting with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and promote two new green freeports - was speaking to the programme’s political editor Colin Mackay, who quizzed him on whether he would support a “de facto referendum” on Scottish independence at the next general election.

It comes as Ms Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party continues to push for an independent Scotland, with the FM turning to the next vote by the electorate as her next route towards such a goal.

Late last year, following a referral from the Scottish government, the UK Supreme Court ruled it was not possible for the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a second independence referendum without the consent of the UK government or parliament.

In response to that decision back in November, Ms Sturgeon said: “The fact is, the SNP is not abandoning the referendum route. Westminster is blocking it.

“In that scenario, unless we give up on democracy - which I, for one, am not prepared to do - we must and will find another democratic, lawful and constitutional means by which the Scottish people can express their will.

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"In my view, that can only be an election. The next national election scheduled for Scotland is the UK General Election, making it both the first and the most obvious opportunity to seek … a de facto referendum.”

It was one of a handful of routes to Scottish independence set out by Ms Sturgeon in June last year.

She also confirmed her party’s national executive committee would set up a dedicated party conference later this year to “discuss and agree the detail of a proposed de facto referendum”.

This brings us to Mr Mackay’s chat with Mr Sunak, during which the PM was asked if he would accept the result of a “de facto referendum” at the next general election – provided he’s still prime minister after it, of course.

He replied: “I’ll tell you what I’m focused on is delivering for people in Scotland. Today’s announcement…”

Nope, not what Mr Mackay asked. Second time lucky?

Mr Sunak said: “We didn’t talk about the next general election. What we did talk about, though, is the things that we can do to deliver for the people here in Scotland by working constructively together.

“And today’s announcement of two new freeports…”

Frustrated, Mr Mackay interjected: “But you’re completely ignoring my question, which is about the possibility of the next general election being a de facto referendum. Would you accept the outcome of that?”

When Mr Sunak decided to turn it back to what he was “focused on”, the STV reporter quickly clapped back by saying he was asking the politician to “focus on this”.

Place your bets on whether Mr Sunak answered the question in three… two… one…

“Do you know what? I was out all of yesterday and then I’ve been out all of today and what people are talking to me about is what we can do to actually make their lives better,” he said.

Oh, never mind.

He added: “When it comes to a general election, people will make up their own minds on what they want to vote on, so it’s not for me to sort that out.”

Putting a different question to the Conservative Party leader, Mr Mackay asked if he was “ignoring democracy”, to which the PM replied “absolutely not” and said they were actually “delivering for people in Scotland”.

“Obviously, the Scottish government tried to put forward something which the Supreme Court said was not appropriate. I respect the decision of the Supreme Court, and in the here and now, I think what people in Scotland want is for us to make a difference to their lives,” he said.

The awkward responses have since been ridiculed by Twitter users, with one joking that the “correct response” would have been: “'Well I’m delighted that you think there’s still a chance I’ll be PM after the election.’”

Veteran interviewer Andrew Neil replied: “Oh dear. Obvious question, persistently and well put.

“PM clearly poorly briefed. Instead of ducking, he could have given the obvious answer: a general election can’t be a de facto referendum. Even Ms Sturgeon [is] starting to realise that.”

Others, such as Dom Joly, praised Mr Mackay’s interview style, with the comedian noting he “doesn’t f*** about”.

For a prime minister who’s not too keen on the idea of people being asked the same question for a second time, he sure doesn’t mind that happening to him…

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