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by Louise Wilson
03 July 2023
Pete Wishart: UK Government will not accept SNP independence election plan

Pete Wishart has been an MP since 2001 | Credit: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

Pete Wishart: UK Government will not accept SNP independence election plan

The UK Government is unlikely to accept the SNP’s independence plan, the party’s longest serving MP has said.

In an exclusive interview with Holyrood, Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart said UK ministers would “probably not” accept his party securing 50 per cent plus one of Scotland’s vote as a signal to begin negotiations.

Last month, the SNP gathered for its Independence Convention in Dundee.

First Minister Humza Yousaf set out his pitch to members, with the final policy to be agreed at conference in autumn.

Yousaf told delegates that securing an agreement to hold a second referendum on independence was “plan A” but the next best option would be to contest the next general election with a manifesto pledge of: “Vote SNP for Scotland to become an independent nation.”

“If the SNP does win this election then the people will have spoken. We will seek negotiations with the UK Government on how we give democratic effect to Scotland becoming an independent nation,” Yousaf added.

But speaking to Holyrood editor Mandy Rhodes before the conference in Dundee, Wishart said that while he supported using “every election as a referendum”, he was not convinced it would have its intended effect.

He said: “We would need 50 per cent plus one of all that vote. Would the UK accept it? Probably not.

“But we are not responsible for how the UK responds to these situations and what we will have done is demonstrate to the UK and the world that Scotland has decided to be an independent nation and whether that elicits some sort of positive response from the UK, I don’t know, but they might actually go ‘oh, alright, you’ve done it’, and it will move things forward.”

The politician, who has been an MP since 2001, also said there was a “chance” Scotland could be independent “in the next five years” but the “easy route” to doing that has “all but been closed down”.

Wishart also spoke about working with former SNP leader Alex Salmond, who he described as “one of the smartest people you’d ever meet in politics”.

Salmond left the SNP following allegations – of which he was ultimately cleared after a trial – of sexual assault.

Wishart said he was “disappointed” by what happened to his former colleague and that relationships between Salmond and the SNP were too “flawed and broken” to go back.

He said: “I always thought there was a way back for Alex, you know, but I think it would have had to have started with assuming responsibility for some of the things that he had said and done. But he’s never been prepared to do that.

He continued: “The moment for any sort of healing between Alex and the party is past now. I don’t really think there’s room for that anymore. I don’t think there’s any opportunity to do that.

“I think there was a point in the early days of all this where that was maybe possible and that conversation could have been had, but I don’t think that exists anymore. Too much has been said and done. And relationships have been so flawed and broken.”

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