The UK Housing Secretary has slammed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her Scottish National Party (SNP) colleagues for discussing IndyRef2 at a time when the nation faces the largest health crisis in generations.

Robert Jenrick, the British minister for housing and local government, condemned the SNP on Tuesday for their talk of another referendum in the midst of a pandemic. 

Any politician who wants to spend time on questions like that at the moment, when we’re in the biggest health crisis for generations and we’re facing a very significant period of disruption, I think is frankly deluding themselves. 

Speaking to Sky News, Jenrick claimed that the devolution of powers to Scotland has been “misused” by the SNP and that they sought to “drive a wedge between people who are ultimately part of the same country.” 

He also described the SNP’s pursuit of independence as “deeply unhelpful.” 

The Housing Secretary’s comments largely echo those of Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday.

The PM reportedly told Tory MPs in a virtual meeting that “devolution has been a disaster north of the border.” According to Jenrick, this was a specific reference to the SNP and their separatist agenda. 

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said in an interview on Sunday that there “must” be a referendum on Scottish independence in 2021. Sturgeon made it clear that she supported the move, but didn’t want her Covid-19 briefing to stray off topic. 

A study published in October by the research group Ipsos MORI claims that support for Scottish independence from the UK is at an all-time high, with 58 percent in favor of a divorce from Britain. 

In 2014, Scots voted 55 percent to 45 percent to reject independence, but while support for independence has increased, the economic arguments have changed. The SNP were overoptimistic on future oil revenues and saw it as a driver for their new independent state. However, North Sea oil revenues have dried up since 2014.

The 2015 Brexit referendum result strengthened support for Scottish independence. While the UK as a whole voted to leave the EU 52 percent to 48 percent, Scotland was overwhelmingly in favor of remaining part of Europe, with 62 percent of Scots voting ‘remain’.

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