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by Kirsteen Paterson
15 March 2022
Ukraine war makes indyref2 talk 'foolish', ex-SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars claims

The Scottish Greens say Sillars has 'one foot in the Better Together camp'

Ukraine war makes indyref2 talk 'foolish', ex-SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars claims

The former MP accused SNP and Greens leaders of 'staggering' ignorance over Ukraine

Former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars has issued an open letter to the Yes movement which slams "foolish" talk of indyref2 amidst the war in Ukraine 

Sillars, who was second-in-command to Alex Salmond in the 1980s, accused the leaders of the SNP and Scottish Greens of "staggering" ignorance, calling them "unfit" to lead Scotland to independence. 

The parties were each elected on manifesto pledges that included a commitment to a fresh ballot on the constitution. They claim this could be possible by the end of next year. 

However, Sillars said Russia’s invasion means that “new policy is required, and until that work is done any talk of a referendum is foolish”. 

He wrote: “Patrick Harvie has demonstrated how unfit he, and those who promoted him, are to lead Scotland to independence. Their obsession with indyref2 has promoted means over end. Their ignorance of the geopolitical consequences of Russia’s war on Ukraine, which will bear upon the decision Scots will have to make, is staggering. 

“The prime objective of the independence movement is not to hold a referendum now, but to create an overwhelming majority for independence. Only when that is achieved do we want a referendum, because that will be one we can win. That is not the case today.” 

While the SNP seeks Nato membership for an independent Scotland, the Greens are opposed to this. 

Nicola Sturgeon recently said the west must not rule out a no-fly zone over Ukraine and should “keep its mind open” to all efforts to aid that country. Those comments drew condemnation from Salmond and Scotland Secretary Alister Jack. 

Sillars wrote that “if Patrick Harvie and Nicola Sturgeon believe the geopolitical consequences of the Ukraine war can be ignored as though they have no bearing on the issue of Scotland’s constitutional future, they are living in a world that has gone,” adding: “With Russia now changed from a potential adversary to an aggressor state, Scotland’s importance to the defence of Great Britain and western Europe, in terms of its strategic position in preventing a Russian fleet gaining access to the Atlantic sea lanes, has been transformed in importance. For European defence purposes, if Scotland didn’t exist, it would have to be invented. How European states, and the USA, look at our case for independence will now change from a minor interest to a strategic one.” 

He went on: “Where previously the debate about independence was focused on domestic matters and held among a people grown used to European stability, today defence, foreign policy, allies will be factored in by a Scottish society that now has cause for anxiety and will demand assurances about its safety in any policy advanced by the independence movement. 

“Putin’s mad gamble has the consequence for Scotland of changing the relative importance of the components in the case for independence.” 

In their response, the Scottish Greens highlighted the donations made by Sillars to Scottish Labour’s Jackie Baillie in her last election campaign, saying: “Jim Sillars already has one foot in the Better Together camp, so we shouldn’t be surprised that his enthusiasm for independence has waned. 

“The public elected a majority in favour of holding an independence referendum during this parliamentary term, which is why the Bute House Agreement commits to this and will be delivered by Greens in government. 

“To play a positive role in the world, Scotland is not too poor or too wee to emulate other successful independent countries of a similar size, whether that is Ireland’s approach to welcoming Ukrainian refugees or Denmark’s leadership on oil and gas.” 

An SNP spokesperson said: “Jim Sillars recently called for independence to be ‘deprioritised’ – and donated cash to keep Scotland under Westminster control.

“Any claims he has to support independence are contradicted by his own words and deeds.” 

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