Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon tensions soar as Union review set to be released

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Officials in Downing Street are considering what to do to deal with what they brand the “increasingly difficult” messages from Edinburgh on the issue. The long-awaited Dunlop Review into UK Government Union capability is set to be published later this month and Express.co.uk understands some officials are concerned about tensions rising on the topic upon its release.

Lord Dunlop, who made 40 recommendations in an unpublished Theresa May commissioned review of how devolution is working, warned the Union may face “choppy waters” next year.

Lord Dunlop’s review has been lying on the prime minister’s desk for at least 10 months, this website understands.

The review was tasked with investigating how the Union could be strengthened after MPs concluded relations broke down between the UK and Scottish Government.

One Whitehall source said: “The Union is a cautious issue at the moment, we need to tread carefully as to how we move on this.

“It’s very clear certain individuals are getting quite pushy for a second vote on independence and numerous options have been discussed to deal with the rising counter of independence.

“The First Minister’s proposed referendum bill is increasingly becoming a serious matter for us.”

However, the SNP are piling the pressure on Westminster after 12 polls in a row this year suggest significant support for independence between 54 and 58 percent.

One senior SNP politician today compared Scotland to a wife trapped in a marriage during a Commons exchange on the Union and the issue of a second independence referendum.

Dr Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire, asked the Scotland Secretary: “Does he think the best recipe for a happy marriage is to lock up the wife, take away her chequebook and just keep refusing a divorce?”

But responding in Scotland Questions in the Commons, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack called on the SNP to respect the result of the 2014 referendum.

He said: “It was very clear, the SNP said at the time it was once in a generation. I don’t believe we should go into a process of ‘referendums’ which are divisive, unsettling, bad for jobs in Scotland.”

SNP leaders previously described the 2014 ballot as a “once in a generation” event, but the Scottish Tory MP suggested a generation could be “25 or 40 years”.

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This week Sir John Major sparked fury after he claimed another Scottish independence referendum could take place if there was then a confirmatory ballot.

The former Prime Minister warned that refusing such a vote could increase support for a split, saying the combination of Brexit and an unpopular UK Government has helped the popularity of separatism.

In response, the Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross accused Sir John of playing into the SNP’s hands with his “unhelpful suggestion”.

Speaking today at an event organised by Unionist think tank Reform Scotland, Mr Ross added: “He’s transferred Brexit to the issue of Scottish independence and I just think it’s unhelpful, at this time, to again be focussed on all this division and uncertainty about a future referendum or referendums.”

Mr Ross admitted Boris Johnson popularity was a big problem and north of the border but added: “He wants to do everything he can to improve his ratings in Scotland and I don’t believe it’s a foregone conclusion that they will remain the same indefinitely.”

Representatives from Edinburgh have been approached for comment. 

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