SNP civil war: Ian Blackford slaps down rebels over independence ‘We can’t break the law’

The path and destination of Scotland’s independence can only ever be found through the democratic will of our people

Ian Blackford

Party colleague Angus MacNeil MP is one of those arguing an SNP majority victory in next year’s Holyrood election should be seen as a mandate for independence if Boris Johnson continues to block a second referendum. However, speaking about Scottish independence at a London School of Economics (LSE) debate society event, Mr Blackford stressed to “see this through” the party would have to adopt a “legitimate and legal route”. Mr Blackford pointedly observed the “path and destination of Scotland’s independence can only ever be found through the democratic will of our people”.

It was only was via this “path of persuasion” that a majority of Scots would come round to leaving the rest of the UK, Mr Blackford added.

Mr Blackford, MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP added: “The United Kingdom that Scotland voted to remain part of 2014 no longer exists.

“The union on these islands, as once was, is simply no more.”

Claiming a no-deal Brexit was “still very much hanging over our people and our businesses”, Mr Blackford said: “Scotland’s economic interests are no longer served by being a part of this union.

“The landscape of the last decade – of austerity, of Brexit, of deep uncertainty and instability – has come at a great cost.

“It is therefore little wonder that more and more of our citizens are seeking to escape that prolonged austerity and escape Brexit.

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“Rather than the instability and limitations offered by the UK, an independent country now offers the Scottish people both stability and opportunity.

“If the 2016 Brexit referendum was the moment when our political futures met a point of divergence, we are now at the cusp of a moment of decision for Scotland’s people.”

Mr Blackford’s remarks appear to back up an assessment by businessman Kevin Hague, chairman of the pro-Union think tank These Islands.

Last month Mr Hague told the SNP party was split between hardliners such as Mr MacNeil and Joanna Cherry QC, who favour calling a referendum even without the blessing of Westminster, and Mr Blackford and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who have adopted a more cautious approach.

Mr MacNeil, meanwhile signalled his impatience in a blog published on the Politics Home website last month in which he referred to a request under Section 30 of the Scottish Act, which permits Holyrood to pass laws in areas normally reserved to Westminster.

In it, he said: “All avenues of the Consultative Referendum should be explored now, and the Scottish Government should be decisive and not dither as it did over the Section 30 request.

“That will be a hard sentence for many of my colleagues to read, but dither it was. Now the Scottish Government is dithering over establishing the legality of a Consultative Referendum and that is another hard fact to swallow.

If all Referendum approaches are closed off, then we move away from (the Salmond inspired) Referendum approach that hold sway today and allow the Scottish people democratic expression at an election, either by majority of seats or votes.

“After all Boris Johnson has his mandate for any Brexit on 43 percent of the vote and 56 percent of the seats.

“The SNP in Scotland has 45 percent of the vote and 82 percent of the seats, on Westminster’s own rules!

“Personally, at age 49, waiting 18 years until I am 67 to improve Scotland is not a long haul I am ready for.

“In politics we are in it to win it, not to “hedge our bets” for decades. Scotland needs to win.”

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