‘As anti-democratic as Boris Johnson’: Jo Swinson slammed as poll shows Lib Dem voters back indyref2

Ben Wray

Jo Swinson: “The last thing Scotland needs right now is indyref2”

  • Poll finds 60 per cent of Lib Dem voters across the UK believe Westminster should not stand in the way of indyref2
  • Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said his party would oppose a second independence referendum even if Scots backed one at the next Holyrood elections
  • Rennie had to deny the party was plotting a Better Together alliance to stop the SNP at the next General Election, with Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael saying talks had happened but that such a pact is “not actually necessary”
  • The party’s annual conference backed leader Jo Swinson’s new policy of revoking Article 50

SNP MP Kirsty Blackman has accused Jo Swinson of being “as anti-democratic as Boris Johnson”, after the Lib Dem leader refused to accept that the SNP could win a mandate for a second independence referendum at the 2021 Scottish elections, even as she argued for abandoning the result of the 2016 EU referendum Leave vote if the Lib Dems win the next General Election.

The remarks come after a new poll found Lib Dem voters did not share the views of their leadership on a second independence referendum.

The poll from BMG found that 60 per cent of Lib Dem voters across the UK believe Westminster can no longer stand in the way of a second independence referendum. Labour and Brexit Party voters also backed the right to indyref2.

The poll found that 45 per cent of Britons believe a second independence referendum should be permitted, while 30 per cent believe it should be blocked.

The party passed policy in favour of revoking Article 50 if the Lib Dems win the next General Election, a shift in position after previously arguing for a People’s Vote.

READ MORE: Analysis: Will the SNP oppose the Lib Dems ‘Revoke and Remain’ policy?

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said on Sunday that they would oppose a second independence referendum even if voters back pro-indyref2 parties at the next Scottish Parliamentary election, in 2021. 

Speaking on the Today programme this morning, Swinson was asked why a UK election could see the result of the EU referendum cancelled while a Scottish election could not achieve a mandate for a second independence referendum.

She replied: “The SNP’s typical playbook is going into elections not mentioning independence… I want our country to thrive, Scotland in the UK and the UK in the EU. 

“The problem we are facing right now, whether it’s a People’s Vote or whether it’s a General Election to resolve, is how to get out of that chaos. What we are talking about in terms of Scotland, the idea of an independence referendum, is about adding more chaos to an already chaotic situation.

“The last thing Scotland needs right now is indyref2.”

Asked once again if the Lib Dems had one principle for the UK and one principle for Scotland in terms of democratic mandates, Swinson replied: “I think we are better off staying together, I think the UK is stronger as four nations working together, I think the EU is stronger with 28 nations working together.”

Responding to Swinson’s remarks, SNP Westminster Depute Leader Kirsty Blackman MP said: “Jo Swinson’s hypocrisy on this is utterly grotesque and shows that she and her party are neither liberal nor democratic.

“Her arrogance in thinking she can stand in the way of the electoral verdict of the people of Scotland is appalling – she and Willie Rennie are every bit as anti-democratic as Boris Johnson.

“It seems she only believes in democracy when it suits her and is happy to ignore the fact that Liberal Democrat supporters across the UK now back a referendum on Scottish independence.

“The fact the Lib Dems are cosying up to the Tories in Scotland will simply remind people of the last time they propped the Conservatives up in government.

READ MORE: ‘We saw it in Scotland first’: Swinson says indyref heralded ‘harsh, hostile’ politics in Lib Dem leader victory speech

“But if Jo Swinson’s message going into the next election is that she knows better than the people of Scotland, then the people are likely to give their own verdict and it won’t be a good one for the Lib Dems.

“Support for independence, and for having a referendum, is on the rise – and nothing Jo Swinson says can stop that.”

The Liberal Democrats annual conference took place over the weekend, with Sam Gyimah, who was a Tory minister in Theresa May’s government but lost the party whip two weeks ago, being announced as the latest former Tory to join the Lib Dems.

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie had to deny last week that they were planning a ‘Better Together’ election pact in Scotland to stop the SNP winning a clean-sweep of seats.

READ MORE: In Defence of 2014 – in defence of popular democracy

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon responded to the story by stating: “Leopards – and it seems Liberals – don’t change their spots.

“According to this they’re in election talks with the Tories?! Remember this the next time you hear the Scottish Lib Dems claim that they are anti Tory.”

Rennie said that was “wrong”, but Alistair Carmichael, Lib Dem MP for Orkney and Shetland who was reported as saying talks were “ongoing”, said that talks had happened, but that “there’s no pact”.

“It’s not actually necessary, voters in Scotland are pretty good at working that out for themselves who to vote for if they want to remain in the UK,” he added.

Picture courtesy of Liberal Democrats

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