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by Staff reporter
14 February 2023
Former advisor to First Minister brands de facto referendum ‘daft’

Former advisor to First Minister brands de facto referendum ‘daft’

A former special advisor to two first ministers has described the plan to approach the next general election as a de facto referendum on Scottish independence as “one of the daftest ideas I’ve heard”.

Campbell Gunn, who worked for Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon between 2013 and 2016, also said the decision to pursue gender recognition reforms “has been a serious error”.

The intervention comes as exclusive polling published by Holyrood revealed two-thirds of voters do not believe the election can be used as a de facto referendum.

The SNP is set to hold a special conference next month the thrash out the details of that proposal but it has already been criticised by senior SNP members, including Stewart McDonald MP.

Writing in the Press & Journal, Gunn said: “Just because one party says they’ll campaign only on a single issue, doesn’t make the election about that.

“The other parties will ignore it and fight on their manifestos as usual. The ‘referendum’ will have no legal standing. And, no matter the outcome, Westminster will, justifiably, ignore it.”

And on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill – which last month was blocked by Scottish secretary Alister Jack – Gunn said it was clear it faced “overwhelming public opposition”.

He added: “Remember that there was never any mention of introducing a policy of self-identification in the party’s manifesto at the last election.

“No matter how worthy and correct the introduction of the gender reform act was, pressing ahead with it showed a lack of political judgment.”

The SNP’s election manifesto pledged to reform the Gender Recognition Act, the 2004 legislation which allows trans people to obtain a gender recognition certificate. It did not specify what those reforms should be.

Holyrood polling also found half of voters agreed the UK Government was “right” or “within its rights” to block the legislation, with more than half (54 per cent) saying they opposed the bill passed by the Scottish Parliament in December.

Reflecting on the position the SNP currently finds itself in, Gunn - who has been a member of the party since he was at school – warned that “Scottish independence no longer appears to be the issue driving many members of the party”.

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