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by Kirsteen Paterson
29 June 2022
SNP correction on independence after John Swinney 'mishears' BBC question

Deputy First Minister John Swinney and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at FMQs. Pic: Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via Reuters

SNP correction on independence after John Swinney 'mishears' BBC question

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has issued a correction over the "route map" to independence following an interview with the BBC.

Appearing on BBC Radio Scotland, Swinney appeared to stated that securing a simple majority of Westminster MPs at the next general election would give the SNP a mandate to open independence negotiations with the UK Government.

In a speech on Tuesday, Nicola Sturgeon said the next UK-wide vote will become a "de facto" referendum if the Supreme Court does not find that the power to hold a consultative ballot without Westminster's permission is within Holyrood's competencies.

This morning, broadcaster Gary Robertson asked Swinney if a "majority of seats" would be enough for the party under Sturgeon's plan, to which the long-serving MSP replied "that's correct".

Later, he issued a correction via social media, stating that he had misheard the question and failed to 'pick up' on the note about seat share. He said: "Referenda, including de facto referenda at a UK general election, are won with a majority of votes. Nothing else."

The correction followed an interview by Sturgeon on BBC Breakfast, during which she stated: "As a matter of principle, Scotland will only become independent when a majority vote for it."

However, Scottish Labour constitution spokesperson Sarah Boyack said: "This desperate claim from John Swinney exposes the SNP for what they are - obsessive nationalists who are hell-bent on gaming the electorate to suit their ends.

"It is deeply embarrassing for Nicola Sturgeon to be so publicly contradicted on the barometer for independence by her own deputy."

Sturgeon has named 19 October 2023 as her preferred referendum date. The UK Government's law officers have yet to respond to a bid submitted to the UK Supreme Court, but Downing Street has repeated the Theresa May line that it is "not the time" for another vote on Scotland's constitutional future.

Oxford University professor Ciaran Martin, who helped agree the terms of the 2014 indyref as a civil servant, called the possibility of a favourable Supreme Court ruling Sturgeon's "best chance" of ensuring indyref2 can go ahead.

However, former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption told the BBC that Sturgeon has charted "a very difficult course" because "the Scottish Parliament has no power to legislate for anything that affects the constitutional relationship between two parts of the United Kingdom".

Sturgeon, who today met with the Queen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, told the BBC: "I want a lawful referendum but if that is blocked at every turn then the only option is for my party to say to people in the election, 'use this as the de facto referendum to express your views on independence', and I would be putting that very clearly to the Scottish people."

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton accused the SNP of "brainstorming barmy schemes for what comes next" after a court defeat.

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