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by Staff reporter
13 October 2022
Former independence strategist Stephen Noon questions de facto referendum plan

Former independence strategist Stephen Noon questions de facto referendum plan

A former independence strategist has said the SNP plan to turn the next general election into a de facto referendum is not the right one for identifying the “settled will of the Scottish people”.

Stephen Noon, a former strategist for Yes Scotland and one-time policy adviser to Alex Salmond, said both sides of the constitutional debate had to come together in a “national conversation” about what the preferred solution would be for a majority of Scots.

Noon was taking part in a discussion organised by the Institute for Government alongside former Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy, ex-Tory MSP Adam Tomkins and constitutional law expert Aileen McHarg.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court in London heard a reference from Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain over whether the Scottish Parliament can legislate for another referendum.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she will use the next general election as a de facto vote on independence if the legal route fails.

Asked whether that was the right strategy, Noon said: “We are better moving forward in a way that gets us to 55-60 per cent, an identification of the settled will of the Scottish people.

“My concern around the plebiscite election approach is that it doesn’t move us into that territory. It continues on the path of two groups at 50-50 each, not really talking to each other but talking past each other.

“This is an issue that’s not going to go away; we need to look at serious ways of addressing it. For me, we move forward in the Scottish constitutional journey through conversation, through both sides coming together and having a conversation.”

Noon said it was also fair for those on the unionist side to seek assurances about when the process would end, the need to avoid a so-called “neverendum”.

He added: “We have to have a conversation which recognises the rights and interests of both sides and draws on those to come to a solution which can command the support of a significant majority of people in Scotland.”

Earlier in the conversation Tomkins, a constitutional law expert at the University of Glasgow and former Tory MSP, said it would be “insane” for the UK Government to legislate to block a referendum if the Scottish Government won its case at the Supreme Court.

Asked if the UK Government would seek to introduce legislation at Westminster, he said: “Only if they’re completely insane, which they might be. I think that would be a strategy which would succeed only in accelerating Scotland’s divorce from the rest of the United Kingdom.”

He added: “I wouldn’t put it past Truss and her advisers to think that was a good idea because I think Truss and her advisers are very badly mistaken about what unionist strategy should be.”

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