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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
04 October 2023
Nicola Sturgeon’s strategic advisor was not ‘a fan’ of a de facto referendum

Liz Lloyd with Nicola Sturgeon | Alamy

Nicola Sturgeon’s strategic advisor was not ‘a fan’ of a de facto referendum

Nicola Sturgeon’s former strategic adviser has indicated that she did not agree with the decision to pursue a de facto referendum.  

Liz Lloyd, who worked for the former first minister from 2014 until her resignation this year, first as her chief of staff and then as her strategic advisor, told the New Statesman that she “never thought we needed to set out that position”.

She said that the role of the SNP is to “raise support” [for independence], which she admitted is the “only thing the SNP has control of”. She suggested that most people within the party share that view and that independence will be achieved “in the same way devolution did – the ‘settled will’ concept”.  

Asked how and when, Lloyd said: “It’s always dangerous to play fantasy politics, but I will. If you assume Labour are in government at Westminster and support for independence is 55-60 per cent, a Labour government is a different proposition to a Tory government.  

“The Tories can just turn around and say no because they care not a jot about most voters in Scotland. Labour can’t do that. And that I think is what triggers some sort of progress.”

She commented on the party leadership roles shared between Sturgeon and her husband and former party chief executive Peter Murrell, saying it “probably wasn’t the best” and that it “could have been done differently”.  

Asked about Humza Yousaf as first minister, Lloyd said that he is “listening to where everyone else wants to go” and that he should “perhaps needs to be a little bit more the decider”.  

She said: “You are the decision-maker, ultimately. I think Humza is very much listening to where everyone else wants to go, though perhaps [he] needs to be a little bit more the decider.  

“I’ve said to him it’s all very well being collegiate, but at some point, you have to decide, you have to pick a side. Over the next few months, we have to watch and see what sides he picks.”

Lloyd has recently been appointed to a new role as a specialist partner working on devolution and government with Flint Global. On her LinkedIn profile, she said it would allow her to have the “occasional public opinion”.  

SNP party members are set to vote on a motion tabled by Yousaf and SNP Westminster group leader Stephen Flynn that seeks to set out the independence strategy going into the next UK General Election at the party’s annual conference this month.  

If voted on without amendment, the SNP will run on a single issue in their manifesto – “vote SNP for Scotland to become an independent country”.  

Unlike the de facto referendum planned by Sturgeon, which was a 50 per cent plus one threshold for victory, the motion that will go before the conference currently considers “most seats” as the threshold, which has been criticised by Pete Wishart who has suggested it should be amended to a majority of votes.  

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