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Johnson faces new showdown with Scots

Nicola Sturgeon has refused to back down on a second independence referendum, telling Boris Johnson that election results in Scotland meant it was guaranteed to happen.

In a phone call with the British prime minister, Scotland’s first minister said it was a “matter of when – not if” another vote on whether to split the union would take place following the election of a pro-independence majority in Holyrood.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove had used his Sunday broadcast interviews to signal that the UK Government was not prepared to sanction a follow-up to 2014’s referendum after the Scottish National Party failed to secure a majority at the Scottish parliament elections.

Mr Gove said the result, in which Ms Sturgeon secured a fourth successive term in power for the SNP but fell one seat short of gaining a 65-seat majority in the Edinburgh parliament, indicated that it was “not the case that the people of Scotland are agitating for a referendum”.

He instead urged the SNP to “concentrate on recovery” from the coronavirus pandemic.

But party leader Ms Sturgeon, in a discussion with the prime minister on Sunday, told him that the pro-independence outcome of the elections, with the Scottish Green Party also standing on a ticket of breaking from the rest of the UK, meant a second referendum had become inevitable.

Downing Street said Mr Johnson finished his call with the SNP leader by “emphasising the importance of focusing on COVID-19 recovery at this time”, as No 10 looks to kick talk of a referendum into the long grass.

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