BORIS JOHNSON is planning a “charm offensive” in Scotland in a bid to secure the future of the United Kingdom after the SNP’s election success sparked immediate calls for a second independence referendum.
The Tories lost seven of the 13 seats they held north of the border to the SNP in what leader Nicola Sturgeon described as a “crushing defeat in Scotland”. Senior Scottish Conservatives said the Prime Minister had already spoken to them about the huge challenge the party faces to keep the United Kingdom together. He told them he was “determined” to sort out the situation and will visit Scotland to try to win over sceptical voters.
Mr Johnson has spoken to Ms Sturgeon in a phone call in which he made clear his opposition to indyref2, despite her saying it is now a “democratic right”.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister spoke to First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon and reiterated his unwavering commitment to strengthening the union.
“On Brexit, the Prime Minister said that he is now in a position to get this done in a way that allows the whole of the UK to move forward together, providing certainty for Scottish businesses and improving the lives of people right across Scotland.
“The Prime Minister made clear how he remained opposed to a second independence referendum, standing with the majority of people in Scotland who do not want to return to division and uncertainty.
“He added how the result of the 2014 referendum was decisive and should be respected.”
In a prompt response on social media, Ms Sturgeon tweeted: “And I made clear that @theSNP mandate to give people a choice must be respected – just as he expects his mandate to be respected.”
A spokeswoman for Ms Sturgeon said: “This was a constructive call in which the First Minister indicated she would be publishing a paper next week and the two leaders agreed to have a more detailed discussion in the near future over the issues raised by the election result.”
The SNP increased its tally of MPs to 48 as the Conservatives lost more than half the seats they had held north of the border.
Ms Sturgeon said Scotland had chosen a different future than the rest of the UK, adding the “stunning” result “renews, reinforces and strengthens” the mandate for a fresh vote on independence.
Mr Johnson has previously stated he is not prepared to grant a Section 30 order – which would transfer the power to Holyrood to hold a referendum.
Speaking at a press conference in Edinburgh, the SNP leader said: “This is not about asking Boris Johnson or any other Westminster politician for permission.
“It is an assertion of the democratic right of the people of Scotland to determine their own future.”
“It is clear that the kind of future desired by the majority in Scotland is different to that chosen by the rest of the UK.
“Scotland has rejected Boris Johnson and the Tories and, yet again, we have said no to Brexit.”
The Liberal Democrats also saw losses in Scotland with party leader Jo Swinson losing her seat to Amy Callaghan by 149 votes in East Dunbartonshire, in what was seen as a major scalp for the SNP.
Labour was again left with just one MP in Scotland – Ian Murray in Edinburgh South.
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard lamented his party’s “devastating” result, putting the defeat down to constitutional issues rather than shifting blame on to Jeremy Corbyn.
Mr Murray appeared to point the finger at the party leader, who said he would not lead Labour in another general election, saying on Twitter: “This party must listen, this party must respond, or this party will die.”
The Prime Minister made clear how he remained opposed to a second independence referendum