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by Chris Marshall
29 January 2023
Alex Salmond criticises 'ineptitude' of SNP to put pressure on UK Government over independence

Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon campaigning ahead of the 2014 referendum | Credit: Alamy

Alex Salmond criticises 'ineptitude' of SNP to put pressure on UK Government over independence

Former First Minister Alex Salmond has accused the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon of “extraordinary political ineptitude” for failing to put more pressure on the UK Government over independence.

Salmond said his former party had put “zero political pressure” on four successive prime ministers to accede to demands for another referendum.

And he said the row over the Gender Recognition Reform Bill was not the right issue for a constitutional “showdown” with Westminster.

Writing in the new edition of Holyrood, Salmond said, “we have moved backwards, from Scotland’s national rights being respected to being disrespected”.

Holyrood asked Salmond, along with former Labour First Ministers Henry McLeish and Jack McConnell, to write pieces reflecting on devolution for the magazine’s 500th edition.

Salmond said: “When Prime Minister David Cameron signed the Edinburgh Agreement in 2012, he did so in my office at St Andrews House, and staring at an electoral map of Scotland emblazoned in yellow, showing the complete electoral dominance of the SNP. That electoral dominance was used for its proper purpose of securing the opportunity for Scots to vote themselves into independence.

“Since then, electoral support has largely remained but, particularly since Brexit, four successive UK prime ministers have been placed under zero political pressure to concede to Scotland’s demands. As a result, we have moved backwards, from Scotland’s national rights being respected to being disrespected. Assuming that has not been deliberate, then it is an example of extraordinary political ineptitude.”

Salmond said that had the UK Government attempted to block a referendum during his time as first minister, legislation would have been brought forward in the Scottish Parliament which would have proposed a question “likely to survive court challenge” such as “asking for public agreement that the powers of the parliament should include an independence referendum”.

Comparing gender reform with the passing of equal marriage legislation in 2014, the former first minister said his government had gone to great efforts to assuage concerns and not to dismiss them as “not valid”, a phrase Sturgeon has used to dismiss criticism of the Gender Recognition Reform bill.

Salmond said the SNP’s “raison d’être” should be advancing policy that does not damage the cause of independence.

He added: “It is this more than anything else which makes it difficult to understand the reasoning behind the Scottish Government’s headlong pursuit of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill in the current parliament.

“It would seem extraordinarily short sighted, in terms of the independence debate, to risk the alienation from their own parliament of a substantial group of campaigners, many of whom would be natural allies of the independence cause.

“Even when personal relationships are good, there will always be an inevitable tension between the policy programme of a nationalist administration in Edinburgh and a Tory one in London. Some of that is entirely constructive, such as the extension of voting rights to 16- and 17-year-olds.

“However, the proper chosen ground for a showdown with Westminster for a Scottish Government, which has independence as its prime directive, should be on Scotland’s national right of self-determination or on an economic or social objective which carries overwhelming public backing.”

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