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Civil servant working to ensure UK stays together is moved to Brexit department

A senior civil servant who has been working to ensure the UK stays together has been moved to the Brexit department amid fresh calls for Scottish independence.

Philip Rycroft, who heads the UK Governance Group, which supports ministers to sustain the union, will become second permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU).

Part of his role will be to ensure the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish devolved administrations are engaged extensively during exit talks.

It comes after Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon demanded a second independence referendum between autumn next year and spring 2019, when she says there will be clarity over the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.

A total of 62% of Scottish voters backed staying in the EU in the referendum, and the SNP manifesto for last year's Holyrood elections made clear another ballot on independence should take place if there were a "material change in circumstances" from the previous ballot in 2014.

Prime Minister Theresa May ruled out another vote before Britain leaves the EU, insisting "now is not the time".

A DExEU spokeswoman said: "Philip Rycroft has been appointed as second permanent secretary in DExEU. He is currently the second permanent secretary in the Cabinet Office, where he has responsibility for the Constitution Group.

"As a very experienced senior civil servant he will support the Government's top priority of an orderly exit from, and new partnership with, the EU."

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