Holding a second referendum on Scottish independence would be “reckless and irresponsible”, Boris Johnson has said.
The Prime Minister was speaking as voters in Scotland prepare to go to the polls on Thursday in a crucial Holyrood election, with the issue of the constitution once again dominating the campaign.
Opinion polls have so far been unclear as to whether SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon will win the overall majority she needs in the Scottish Parliament to push for another referendum.
The Prime Minister has not campaigned north of the border in the run-up to the election.
Asked if he would allow another referendum to take place if Scots elect a majority of MSPs from independence supporting parties, Mr Johnson said: “Let’s wait and see what actually happens.
“I think that most people in Scotland, most people around the whole of the UK, feel that this is not the time, as we’re coming forward out of a pandemic together, this is not the time to have a reckless, and I think irresponsible, second referendum.”
Scots voted against independence in 2014, and Mr Johnson referred to that vote as he said there had been a ballot on the issue “only a few years ago”.
The Prime Minister insisted: “I think what most people want is to focus on the country and taking it forward and rebuilding our economy and getting people into work.
“That seems to me to be the priority.”
His comments came as Ms Sturgeon urged Scots to re-elect her as First Minister and let her “get on with the job of leading us out of the pandemic and into a brighter future”.
Ms Sturgeon’s opponents have attacked her plans to hold another vote on Scottish independence during the next Holyrood term, warning this will hinder the country’s recovery – though she has insisted such a referendum will not take place until the immediate health crisis has passed.
She told voters: “I’m ready to get back to work, to take the difficult decisions, and to put Scotland first.
“By giving both votes to the SNP tomorrow people will get experienced leadership, a serious programme for government and, when the Covid crisis is over, the right to decide whether Scotland should be an independent country.”