Conference 'frustration' at Brexit waiting game on independence

Written by Mark McLaughlin on 9 October 2018 in Inside Politics

Constitutional relations secretary Mike Russell said he did not want a "memorable Scottish defeat" and had to be sure of winning the referendum

SNP conference October 2018 - Image credit: Jenni Davidson/Holyrood

Nicola Sturgeon will address the SNP faithful today as frustration builds about the direction of Brexit and the receding prospect of a second independence referendum.

The SNP leader made a major concession ahead of the party conference in Glasgow by agreeing to back a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

She had hitherto refused to support the so-called 'People’s Vote', which is being promoted by some politicians and celebrities, arguing that Scotland already voted against Brexit by 62 percent in 2016.

She has now backed the bid and dismissed concerns that her support for another vote to overturn Brexit could set a precedent for a future vote to overturn independence.

Sturgeon has pledged to outline her plans for another independence referendum "when the terms of Brexit become clear", but with negotiations between London and Brussels still in deadlock the timetable is receding.

The SNP had hoped to stage another independence referendum before Britain leaves the EU on 29 March 2019, but all eyes are now on 2021 when the current term of the SNP government in Edinburgh expires.

Grassroots delegates vented their frustration about the lack of progress towards independence at a packed fringe meeting on Monday.

Heather Anderson, a Scottish Borders councillor, received widespread applause when she urged Mike Russell, Scotland’s chief Brexit negotiator, to acknowledge "the level of frustration in the party that we’re not able to get out and campaign for an independent Scotland in Europe".

"We are very frustrated with being constantly being told, 'Just wait until we find out [the terms of Brexit]', when we are actually not going to find out anything – time is slipping away," she said.

Russell said: "I understand that frustration, and I feel that frustration but nobody is stopping anybody doing anything."

He added: "We can’t have a second referendum in which we don’t win that referendum. That would be the wrong thing to do.

"There are many memorable heroic Scottish defeats, but we are not in that business, we are in the business of a heroic victory for Scotland."

Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, said the last two years of Brexit discussions has been a "phoney war" which is about to turn extremely hostile.

Blackford led a walkout of SNP MPs from the House of Commons in June amid claims that the UK Government is trying to diminish Scottish powers after Brexit, and he has pledged to launch more disruptive tactics in the months ahead.

He said: "Support for Scottish independence has been rising in the polls, and there were polls at the weekend which show that if there was to be a hard Brexit there is a majority for independence.

The SNP Scottish Government has a mandate from the people of Scotland that in a material change in circumstances — as Brexit is — that we have that option of calling a second independence referendum on Scotland’s constitutional position."

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