Calls for Scottish independence are being driven by 'the likes of Mel Gibson' says Tory MP

Conservative MP Giles Watling suggested Gibson was among those helping to put the Union at risk

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Calls for Scottish independence are being driven by “the likes of Mel Gibson”, MPs have heard.

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 in the late middle ages.

Conservative MP Giles Watling (Clacton) suggested Gibson was among those helping to put the Union at risk, adding there should not be another referendum before 2039.

The legality of whether the Scottish Parliament can legislate for a second referendum is currently being considered by the Supreme Court.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said in the event the Supreme Court rules against the Scottish Government over the proposed vote next October, then she will treat the next general election as a “de facto” referendum.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said in the event the Supreme Court rules against the Scottish Government over the proposed vote next October, then she will treat the next general election as a “de facto” referendum.

But Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said in the event the Supreme Court rules against the Scottish Government over the proposed vote next October, then she will treat the next general election as a “de facto” referendum.

The UK Government has continually argued the 2014 independence vote was “once in a generation”.

Speaking at Cabinet Office questions, Mr Watling said he has been “fortunate enough to work in all four corners of this great Union”.

Mr Watling, previously an actor best-known for the sitcom Bread, told the Commons: “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.”

The SNP said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak must “respect the mandate” the Scottish people gave last year.

SNP Cabinet Office spokesman Brendan O’Hara said 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?”

Actors from Edinburgh Dungeons dressed in full "Braveheart" regalia
Actors from Edinburgh Dungeons dressed in full "Braveheart" regalia

Mr 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.”

Labour also said the Government is treating the Union like a “departmental tennis ball”.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Fleur Anderson said 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?”

Mr Clarke-Smith said Mr Sunak 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.”