FORMER SNP leader Gordon Wilson says Scots should be asked to vote in a second “multi- option” referendum after independence – to settle the country’s EU membership, currency and defence.
He also warned that pro-Union parties must set out their vision for Scotland now, or face defeat in the 2016 elections.
The man who led the SNP in the 1980s has launched a new think-tank called Options for Scotland which will aim to set out the choices for Scots in a series of policy papers – if they vote Yes next year. Mr Wilson said the next 18 months would be an “exciting time” as the country wrestled with its constitutional future.
“If Scotland votes Yes, this excitement will increase as this nation is engrossed in the negotiations for transition and the Independence Bill which will set out the agreed political, constitutional and practical issues that will follow,” he said.
Mr Wilson would like to see the subject of a multi-option referendum giving the Scottish people a say on Europe, defence and the currency be discussed more widely. “In itself, the need for such a post-independence referendum will be another source of debate,” he said.
Mr Wilson, along with former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars, is opposed to EU membership and instead wants Scotland to join the EFTA (European Free Trade Association) economic area.
The SNP has also faced internal dissent over its decision that an independent Scotland would join the Nato nuclear alliance, despite the party’s non-nuclear policy. Alex Salmond has faced recent calls to adopt a separate Scottish currency instead of his current plan to keep the pound on independence, which would allow the Bank of England to cap Scotland’s public spending.
Mr Wilson said his support for EFTA and the concept of an independent Scotland met with a “warm reception” from the free trade body.
“This is Scotland’s referendum,” he said. “Also, it poses a challenge to the unionist parties. Yes, they can oppose independence. But what if Scotland says Yes?”
Senior Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat figures may then find themselves locked in negotiations with London over the transition to independence and would be expected to fight for “Scottish national interests”.
He added: “It will be gross irresponsibility for them not to shape their policies now with Scotland’s needs in mind.
“Indeed, if they are not ready with Scottish policies, they will face defeat at the first Scottish election after independence. It will not then be possible for them to hold on to London’s apron strings.”
Options for Scotland will publish a paper in the coming weeks on energy and this will be followed by occasional papers during the referendum campaign.
Mr Wilson was replaced by Mr Salmond as SNP leader in 1990, and the two had previously clashed when the party was riven by internal divisions in the early 1980s. The former leader led a crackdown on the left-wing 79 Group, of which Mr Salmond was a member. It eventually led to the now First Minister’s expulsion from his party, although he was eventually allowed back in.
A spokesman for the Yes Scotland campaign said: “Scotland is having a referendum about whether we achieve independence so that we can build a fairer society and stronger economy, and Yes Scotland is focused on securing a positive outcome for that.
“If this proposal [the second referendum] is put forward by one of Scotland’s political parties for an independent Scotland, then people can vote for that party to make it happen. However, we are not aware of this forming the platform of any of the parties in Scotland.”