Boris Johnson is to embark on a ‘charm offensive’ in Scotland after his faltering popularity in the country gifted the SNP a landslide victory.
The Conservatives lost seven of their seats to Nicola Sturgeon in a ‘watershed’ moment that has re-ignited calls for a second independence referendum.
The Prime Minister is said to be ‘determined’ to sort out the situation in Scotland and is planning to travel north of the border in the hope of winning over sceptical voters.
The SNP took 48 of the country’s 59 Westminster seats in the General Election, with Glasgow turning all yellow for the first time and former Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson losing her East Dunbartonshire constituency.
Nicola Sturgeon, pictured delivering a victory speech in Edinburgh today, said Scottish voters had a ‘democratic right’ to a second Scottish independence referendum
Senior Conservative sources told The Telegraph that Boris contacted them last night to acknowledge the huge challenge the party faces to protect the more than 300-year-old union.
He is also ‘aware’ of the hostile reaction to him personally, and his government’s Brexit agenda in the country.
Earlier on Friday, Mr Johnson told the Scottish first minister reiterated his ‘unwavering commitment to strengthening the union’ in a phone call to Scotland’s first minister, and refused demands for a second referendum.
The Scottish nationalists have said they will formally request the powers for Holyrood to hold a ballot despite winning only 45 per cent of the country’s vote.
On Friday, Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government would ‘publish the detailed democratic case for a transfer of power to enable a referendum to be put beyond legal challenge’.
However during the call today the Prime Minister continued to play down such a move and said the result of the original vote five years ago ‘should be respected’.
Boris Johnson, pictured arriving back at 10 Downing Street, is said to be considering a trip north of the border to help him win over Scottish voters
Boris Johnson, pictured arriving back at 10 Downing Street today after winning a Tory majority at the general election, is ardently against the holding of a second ballot on breaking up the UK
A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘The Prime Minister spoke to First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon earlier this evening, where he 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.’
The first referendum took place in 2014 as voters rejected independence by 55 per cent to 45 per cent. Recent opinion polls have suggested that the split remains roughly the same as it was five years ago.
Ms Sturgeon said she was not ‘demanding’ a referendum but simply stating what she believed was the ‘right of the people of Scotland’
Ms Sturgeon has insisted the vote on splitting from the UK must now be allowed to take place before the end of next year.
But if Mr Johnson holds firm in his opposition to another vote Ms Sturgeon could be left frustrated with the UK likely heading towards a fresh constitutional crisis.
The SNP managed to increase its tally of MPs in Westminster from 35 in 2017 to 48 this time around as the party won the overwhelming majority of the 59 seats available north of the border.
But the Tories are likely to point to the fact that while the SNP secured 45 per cent of the vote in Scotland, a majority of Scots actually voted for unionist parties.
Ms Sturgeon said in the wake of the result that a second vote on Scottish independence is now a ‘democratic right’ because of her party’s ‘watershed’ performance.
The Scottish First minister said she intends to formally request the necessary powers from the UK government for Holyrood to hold a ballot.
Her administration will ‘publish the detailed democratic case for a transfer of power to enable a referendum to be put beyond legal challenge’.
Approval for the second vote ultimately rests with Mr Johnson and without his sign off Scotland will be unable to hold a referendum which carries legal weight.
The party could try a last resort option of holding a referendum without the blessing of the UK government but it would not be recognised in law and would likely have serious consequences for the organisers.
But Ms Sturgeon said last night’s ‘stunning’ result for the SNP ‘renews, reinforces and strengthens’ the mandate for a fresh vote on independence.
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.’
Mr Johnson has already made clear he is not prepared to grant a so-called Section 30 order – which would transfer the power to Holyrood to hold a referendum.
Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon in a meeting at Bute House in Edinburgh, Scotland, in July
But Ms Sturgeon said the Tories – who focused their election campaign north of the border on their opposition to a second independence vote – had suffered a ‘crushing defeat in Scotland’.
The Conservatives were left with six MPs in Scotland, after having won 13 seats two years ago.
Speaking at a press conference in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘Given what I fear the Tory government has in store for Scotland, that right to choose our own future has never been more important.’
She told Mr Johnson directly: ‘Let me be clear. This is not simply a demand that I or the SNP are making.
‘It is the right of the people of Scotland – and you as the leader of a defeated party in Scotland have no right to stand in the way.’
In a sign that the Tories have no intention of acquiescing to Ms Sturgeon’s request for a referendum, Michael Gove said last night that the Tories remained opposed to another ballot.
Speaking after an exit poll had showed the SNP were surging while the Tories were on course for a massive majority, the senior Cabinet minister said: ‘I don’t believe that another independence referendum is inevitable, quite the opposite.
‘I don’t believe that a second independence referendum would be right for Scotland or right for the United Kingdom.’