In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, the former leader of the Conservative Party said the Scottish First Minister’s hope of launching another referendum is “ridiculous”. It comes after Ms Sturgeon pinpointed October 19, 2023, as the date for the second vote. Mr Duncan Smith told Express.co.uk: “Legally, Scotland can’t set its own date -and we had a referendum. “The Scottish nationalists lost that referendum, and they were the ones that said ‘this is a once-in-a-generation vote’.
“Less than 10 years on from that and they want another referendum – this is just ridiculous.
“Right now, with all that’s going on, this is a catastrophic mistake on behalf of Sturgeon and I suspect it is to take attention away from their own failings as a Government.”
This comes after auditors warned that Scotland’s health “is not improving” as the NHS faces “significant challenges” over the last few years.
In the watchdog’s annual report back in 2017, it highlighted concerns over missed targets, longer waiting times and “stalled” improvements after growing pressure on budgets.
And in a report by Public Health Scotland updated last month, it was pointed out that Scotland has the worst health inequalities in western and central Europe.
In fact, the gap in life expectancy between the most and least deprived areas in Scotland is around 13 years for males and 10 years for females.
There has also been a stall in life expectancy across all socioeconomic groups and almost every age group.
And, in 2018, the number of drug-related deaths in Scotland hit its highest number recorded for the fifth year in a row – with a 1,187 people losing their lives due to drug-related complications.
Mr Duncan Smith noted that the “health service has real problems up in Scotland”, and believes the independence bid is an attempted “distraction” from this.
But this is not the only issue Mr Duncan Smith believes the SNP is attempting to “distract” from.
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As well as pointing out that education standards have fallen in Scotland, the Tory MP said: “The reform of the police system in Scotland has been described even by Scottish politicians as an absolute disaster.
“All of this, plus the fact that if they think that they are going to have independence going into the European Union, that is a complete pipedream.”
He added: “They want to lose their biggest market for ideological reasons – the UK – on the pipedream that the EU will let them in.
“But they won’t because they are running a deficit which is way higher than allowed for countries to enter into the EU or the euro.
“This is a political game being played out by the Scottish National Party, with a view to distracting attention away from what is essentially an underperforming Government.”
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While the legality of the SNP’s independence bid has come into question, Ms Sturgeon has argued she wants a “lawful and constitutional referendum”.
When questioned by reporters on the matter, the First Minister said: “I want a lawful and constitutional referendum. That is what I am focused on right now.
“Scotland cannot and will not be in a position where its democracy is a prisoner of Westminster intransigence, so people will have that opportunity to make their views known on independence and that is what we will put in an election, which is clearly a legal process.”
The SNP has been approached for further comment.