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by Louise Wilson
19 June 2024
John Swinney: Voting SNP will ‘intensify pressure’ to hold independence referendum

John Swinney launched the SNP's manifesto in Edinburgh on Wednesday | Alamy

John Swinney: Voting SNP will ‘intensify pressure’ to hold independence referendum

SNP leader John Swinney has said that voting for the party at the general election would “intensify the pressure” on the next UK Government to allow for an independence referendum.

The SNP today published its manifesto for the election, which states: “If the SNP wins a majority of Scottish seats, the Scottish Government will be empowered to begin immediate negotiations with the UK Government to give democratic effect to Scotland becoming an independent nation.”

Swinney confirmed this meant negotiating for a fresh vote on independence to take place, nearly 10 years after the country voted to remain part of the Union.

This sets the bar at 29 SNP MPs returned on 5 July, significantly fewer than the 48 seats won by the party in 2019.

Swinney claimed there was already a mandate for another vote, given there was a pro-independence majority at the Scottish Parliament following the 2021 election, and that his party winning a majority of Scottish seats would merely add to this.

He repeatedly refused to say whether he would accept that the SNP not winning a majority of seats would be a vote against another referendum.

Asked whether starting negotiations meant he would request a Section 30 order – which would empower the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a referendum – Swinney said: “I believe the best way for Scotland to become an independent country, the way that will address all of the democratic questions and important questions, is for there to be a referendum on independence.

“That is what I think would be the right way to do it and that would be the purpose of negotiations that I would take forward in the aftermath of the election.”

The party’s manifesto sets out 19 other “key pledges” that SNP MPs would seek to deliver, ranging from ending austerity to scrapping the two-child benefit cap to demanding a ceasefire in Gaza.

It also takes aim at the fiscal rules that Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has committed to working within, instead proposing to replace those rules with a “sensible alternative”.

These are recognising the “net worth” of public sector investment, an upper limit on debt servicing costs, and setting out three-year detailed spending plans.

And he encouraged those considering voting Labour in Scotland to “be careful what you wish for” because Labour would be continuing Conservative cuts.

Asked whether the Scottish Government would seek to renew and refresh its relationship with a new government in Westminster, Swinney said ministers had “collaborated as effectively as we can” in recent years.

He added: “Since 2019, the relationship has been characterised by what I would call total and utter disrespect from the United Kingdom government – both at a level of legislative activity and policy intervention, and at times personal behaviour.

“Having said all of that, I do hope, if there is a change of government, that there is the opportunity to make some more progress collaboratively.”

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