SNP MP: We’re not the Scottish Stop Brexit Party – focus on independence

Ben Wray

Some independence supporters are expressing concern that the opportunity for independence is being missed in favour of a keeping the UK in the EU

SNP MP Angus McNeil has called on his party to prioritise Scottish independence over keeping the UK in the EU.

Writing in the National newspaper today (12 December), he warned that a People’s Vote or a push for a Commons vote of no confidence would be “merely rabbit holes to get lost in”, and warned that the party’s fight to keep the UK in the EU was in danger of “eclipsing the issue of independence”.

He wrote: “Independence is the core policy of the SNP. People’s Votes and even votes of no confidence are merely rabbit holes to get lost in, during this “moment for us all”.

“Independent Ireland is proving how much better off they are and better able to shape their society than Scotland while stuck in the faltering, failing and internationally mocked chaotic UK. Over the last nine years Ireland’s tax revenues have grown 32 per cent – Scotland’s block grant fell by 6.9 per cent.”

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Further on, he added: “The SNP and Scottish Government now have to put Scotland first. They’ve done what they reasonably can to fight Brexit. It has even dominated the SNP’s twitter feed and that of the party’s leading lights, eclipsing the issue of independence.”

“…we must always remember that we are the SNP – the Scottish National Party – not the SSBP – the Scottish Stop Brexit Party.

“There is disarray on the Tory benches, Scotland is being disrespected and ignored, so what are we going to do about it? This is the week for getting independence at the top of the agenda by stating that we want to hold a referendum in 2019. Let’s pressure the Prime Minister to answer the Section 30 question that in her weakness she is avoiding answering.”

At their conference in October the SNP leadership announced it would support any calls for a second UK wide vote on EU membership, a position later ratified by the conference. While remaining in the EU is its first aim, Sturgeon has said she would also support a Brexit deal that kept the UK in the Single Market and Customs Union. But in recent days the emphasis has shifted towards stopping Brexit, with Sturgeon stating that she would support a parliamentary vote of no confidence in the hope it would prompt the Labour party into backing a second vote.

On a second independence referendum, the First Minister has said she wants to see how the Brexit crisis plays out at Westminster before stating whether she would be pushing for a Section 30 order which would allow a legally binding referendum to take place. Sturgeon told a Women for Indy conference last month that the SNP may need to seek another mandate for an independence referendum if the UK Government turn down a request for a section 30 order, despite the SNP already gaining a mandate from the 2016 Scottish elections and 2017 General Election.

Read more: If UK Gov blocks indyref2 we may need to seek another mandate in an election, Sturgeon says

Some in the independence movement have echoed McNeil’s calls for a refocus on independence, with many supporters responding to Sturgeon’s social media commentary of the crisis at Westminster on Twitter by calling for her to push for a second independence referendum.

As Prime Minister Theresa May is set for a no confidence vote among her own MPs, co-founder of the Radical Independence Campaign Jonathon Shafi tweeted: “If there’s a time to deploy indyref2 mandate it is now. As in: today. Make the call – the Tories are on their knees. Or history will pass us by.”

However, others in the independence movement have praised Sturgeon’s position as trying to maintain Scotland’s relationship with the EU whilst keeping the option of Scottish independence open.