A former SNP cabinet secretary has warned against a “headlong rush” to a second independence referendum, urging First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to instead “await the optimum time” for such a ballot.
Kenny MacAskill, who served as justice secretary for seven years, said that if Scots again voted to stay part of the UK “glorious defeat would put the dream back catastrophically” for independence supporters.
“Glorious defeat would put the dream back catastrophically. Wiser counsel must prevail.”Kenny MacAskill
His comments came after former SNP leader and First Minister Alex Salmond said he expected there would be another referendum in “roughly two years’ time” following the UK’s vote for Brexit.
Mr MacAskill, writing in a national newspaper, said the decision to leave the European Union “on its own leaves too many unanswered questions”.
He stated: “It’s difficult in politics to restrain some activists when passions run so high. But sometimes that needs done. It’s frustrating but essential for ultimate success.
The former MSP, who stood down from Holyrood in May, said the party “would be wiser to be working on the answers to critical questions that cost victory in the last referendum”.
While he said a snap UK general election in which the Tories won a comfortable victory “would accelerate plans” for a fresh vote on independence, Mr MacAskill said: “Scottish history is littered with tales of headlong rushes to disaster.
“As with Highland charges, it’s not the passion of the participants that’s in doubt, but the wisdom of the tactic.
“Scottish success, whether on the battle or sporting field, has come through more cerebral actions not rushes of blood to the head.
“Glorious defeat would put the dream back catastrophically. Wiser counsel must prevail.”
He added: “As the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath nears, the cause of independence hasn’t gone away but as Mel Gibson shouted to the Scottish ranks in the movie Braveheart: ‘Hold’. It’s about timing and tactics.”
With continued speculation about the timing of a second referendum, opposition politicians urged the First Minister to rule out another vote.
Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw argued that “mixed messages” from the SNP were creating confusion and uncertainty.
He added: “Nicola Sturgeon needs to show some leadership and rule this out now.
“For the next five years, the priority of this Scottish Government has to be the bread-and-butter running of the country, not agitating for another separation vote.
“We’re in a ludicrous position where some sitting MSPs and the former justice secretary say we should hold off.
“But at the same time, Alex Salmond predicts there will be a referendum within two years while his successor as First Minister has already started drawing up plans.”
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “On a daily basis, senior nationalists are telling the First Minister she has got it wrong on another independence referendum.
“From Joan McAlpine to Derek Mackay, they are saying Nicola Sturgeon has made an error of judgement by pushing so hard for a new separation vote.
“If even hapless general Kenny MacAskill is criticising her it shows how bad it has got for Nicola Sturgeon.
“The First Minister can bring the uncertainty to an end by simply declaring that another independence referendum is off the table.”