Alex Salmond calls for independence negotiations to start in 'week one of the new parliament'
Negotiations for leaving the UK should start in the first week of the next parliamentary term, Alex Salmond has said.
In a speech to mark the 701st anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, the Alba leader said that while Boris Johnson could ignore a party, it would be impossible for him to dismiss a “supermajority” of independence-supporting MSPs.
The SNP’s position is far more cautious. Last week Nicola Sturgeon said she wanted a second independence referendum to be in the "first half" of the next parliamentary term, when Scotland is in the "recovery phase" of the pandemic.
Setting out his party’s “declaration for Scotland” Salmond said: “The appeal for Scottish independence cannot – should not – be restricted by party.
“No one party has the ownership of Scottish independence. It is rooted in the sovereignty of the people, all of the people.
“Scotland’s parliament is the modern democratic expression of the community of the realm.
“It exists to allow modern Scotland to define its own future. To tell the wider world who we are and who we want to be.
“And in this election more than any other, it is about putting nation before party.
“We need to come together, to work to create a Parliament which encompasses all shades of opinion prepared to back Scottish independence.”
Boris Johnson has previously knocked back Scottish Government requests to grant a Section 30 order to allow a legally watertight referendum.
Earlier this year he even suggested there should be no second vote until 2055.
Salmond said: “The Tory Prime Minister must not be allowed to cast this great debate as party against party, Prime Minister against First Minister. If he does that, Scotland will lose.
“This needs to become what we all know it to be: a Tory prime minister standing against the will of Scotland’s parliament representing Scotland‘s people.
“Boris Johnson has already declared he will ignore an SNP victory as a basis for a referendum.
“But even if he can ignore a party, he cannot ignore a parliament and a nation.
“Our task is therefore to give voice to Scotland’s modern community of the realm. To demand self-determination. To assert nationhood and the need for respect and equality across these islands.“
Salmond said if a supermajority of pro-independence MSPs was returned they would then issue “a clear and unmistakable instruction to the Scottish Government to open negotiations with Whitehall on independence.”
“That should happen in week one of the new parliament,” he said.
This would be backed up by an independence convention “drawn from all of Scotland’s elected representatives, to give support and substance to the Scottish Government’s independence negotiating position.”
He added: “A Section 30 referendum could be part of that, as could a plebiscite, or another democratic test as could domestic legal action or international and diplomatic initiatives, as could peaceful and popular demonstration.
“The tactics will inevitably evolve with the negotiations but the strategy is to make the achievement of independence a real and overriding priority.
“Be clear: if we don’t make it ours, Boris Johnson certainly won’t make it his.“
Asked why Boris Johnson would agree to negotiations with Holyrood just because of a majority of pro-independence MSPs, Salmond said: “It makes a fundamental difference in terms of the balance of power.
"If the expression that comes to demand Scotland's rights be acknowledged doesn't come from a single political party, but comes from a super majority of independence supporting MSPs that enormously strengthens the position of those negotiating for Scottish independence and makes it a matter of not just the Prime Minister against First Minister, but a Tory prime minister against the mandated will of the Scottish Parliament, representing the Scottish people, and the community of the realm.
“All of the other potential actions, which I've outlined today, anticipate that these negotiations at least in the early stages will require some persuasion if we are to have a Tory prime minister engage constructively in them.
"The range of options I've outlined are those you could only mobilise if you're speaking for the community of the realm.”
A UK Government spokesman said: “Now more than ever, people in Scotland want to see the UK Government and the devolved administrations working together to protect lives and livelihoods.
“The United Kingdom is the most successful political and economic union the world has ever seen, and this pandemic and our collective response, from the furlough scheme to vaccine procurement and the backing of our military personnel, has shown that we are at our strongest when we work together towards a common goal.
“The push for a divisive referendum is simply irresponsible. It is a distraction, when we need to focus on continuing to tackle the pandemic and rebuilding our economy.”