Politics

Brexit ‘boosts case for Scottish independence’

Ian Blackford speechImage copyright PA
Image caption Ian Blackford was speaking at the SNP conference in Glasgow

Brexit is a “democratic outrage” which is boosting the case for Scottish independence, the SNP’s Westminster leader has told the party’s conference.

Ian Blackford opened the second day of the party’s conference in Glasgow.

He told delegates that the Conservative government was “completely in thrall to the hardline Brexiteers”.

And he said Brexit was “crystallising the case for Scotland having full control over its own affairs” via independence.

SNP members have gathered in Glasgow for the three-day event, which will climax with a speech from party leader and first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, on Tuesday.

The second day of the event included policy debates on child tax credits, international trade and nuclear weapons and speeches from Ms Sturgeon’s party deputy Keith Brown and her deputy first minister, John Swinney.

Mr Blackford’s speech focused on constitutional issues, hitting out against Brexit while promoting the cause of Scottish independence.

The UK is due to leave the EU in March, but the SNP highlight the fact that voters in Scotland backed remain by a margin of 62% to 38%.

The MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber said: “Time and time again, the SNP and others have fought to ensure that Scotland’s remain vote is respected in the EU negotiations – but the Tory cabinet is completely in thrall to the hardline Brexiteers who could not care less about jobs, living standards and public services in Scotland.

“The democratic outrage of Brexit is crystallising the case for Scotland having the full control over its own affairs.

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Media captionOn a second EU vote, Nicola Sturgeon said: “I think, [it would] be odd for us not to grasp an opportunity for Scotland to reaffirm its vote to remain in the EU.”

“With the full powers of independence we can ensure that Scotland’s enormous human and natural resources can make Scotland the fair and prosperous nation that it deserves to be.”

In June, Mr Blackford was ejected from the Westminster chamber while protesting against what he called a “power grab” in UK Brexit legislation, sparking a walkout of SNP members.

Referring to this at a fringe meeting on Monday evening, he said SNP MPs would use “any means necessary” to oppose a bad Brexit deal when MPs have a “meaningful vote” later in the year.

He promoted the idea of another Brexit referendum – the so-called “People’s Vote” – as a viable “alternative” to having a bad deal or no deal at all.

His views have been backed up by the first minister, who – in a series of BBC interviews – has said SNP members would “undoubtedly” vote in favour of a fresh referendum.

Ms Sturgeon told the BBC’s Scotland editor Sarah Smith: “The reason I said SNP MPs will vote for another EU referendum – if that comes before the House of Commons I don’t know whether it will – is if that opportunity presents itself, I don’t think it would be right for us to stand in the way of people elsewhere in the UK getting the chance to change their minds and it would also, I think, be odd for us not to grasp an opportunity for Scotland to reaffirm its vote to remain in the EU.”

The SNP leader, who was being interviewed on the second day of her party’s conference, added: “I will be very frank, it doesn’t necessary resolve the problems Scotland found itself in, yes we can look at options that might protect Scotland’s position, but fundamentally the only real protection for Scotland against having decisions imposed on us against our will is for Scotland to become independent.

“That is one of the advantages of independence, of course that also gives us the opportunity to steward our own resources and build the better fairer society we want to see.”

Image caption Ian Blackford told the SNP conference that Brexit was a “democratic outrage”

The party’s Brexit minister Mike Russell was pressed by members at a fringe event on when a new vote on independence might be called – and said the timing of a new vote “is not in our gift”.

One delegate told the MSP that “we’re very frustrate with constantly being told to just wait” for a new referendum campaign, saying “there’s a sense that time is slipping away”.

Mr Russell said he felt frustration too, but said: “The why of independence is more important than the when of independence the moment, because the when is not in our gift. We have a devolved settlement which makes the when very difficult to achieve.”

‘Neverendum’

Prime Minister Theresa May has opposed fresh referendums on either independence or Brexit.

Her official spokeswoman said Scotland “had an independence referendum four years ago and vote decisively to remain in the UK”, adding that “now is not the time” for a fresh vote.

Labour have not ruled out support for a so-called “People’s Vote”, while the Lib Dems are actively campaigning for it.

Mrs May told the Conservative Party conference that “we had the people’s vote, and the people voted to leave”.

And the Scottish Conservatives say the SNP is “the party of the neverendum – not just in Scotland, but across the UK too”.

Elsewhere at the conference, Mr Swinney mounted a defence of standardised assessments for primary one pupils.

The education secretary is to make a statement to MSPs after the October recess in the wake of a Holyrood defeat which urged ministers to “halt” the tests.

The government has promised to “reflect” on this – but Mr Swinney told a fringe event that the vote was a “disgrace” which was focused on politics rather than pupils.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-45779663

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