A leaked memo suggests that the Conservative leadership are considering a plan to hand Wales and Scotland more powers to try and keep them in the union.
The memo seen by Bloomberg news suggests preparing a new constitutional plan ready to roll out in case an SNP victory in May makes Scottish independence almost inevitable.
Rather than rejecting a referendum for Scotland the government should instead focus on a “Four Nations, One Country” policy by transferring further financial powers and allowing differentiation on policies connected to the EU vote, such as immigration.
The memo says that continuing to dismiss Scottish calls for another independence vote outright could be “counterproductive” as support rises.
The document from a political consultancy firm, Hanbury Strategy, that works closely with the Conservative party, Bloomberg said.
The memo offers three steps the UK Government could take to mitigate the pressure: “New accommodation, new constitutional settlement, and cooperation rather than confrontation.”
These measures could eventually be ratified via a referendum as a “placation” for independence supporters.
The memo has been circulated to a select group of people including Cabinet minister Michael Gove, according to people familiar with the discussions taking place.
A poll published by Ipsos MORI last week put support for independence at 58%, the highest level ever.
Asked about the leaked Tory memo, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “The issue of independence was settled when the Scottish people voted decisively to remain part of a strong United Kingdom.
“Both sides committed very clearly to respecting the decision in 2014 and the First Minister promised it would be a once in a generation vote and the UK Government will continue to uphold that decisive decision.”
Pressed on whether the UK Government would seek to block an independent Scotland joining the EU, the spokesman said he “hadn’t seen the memo” and didn’t “know the basis for it”.