THE SNP should support pro-independence campaigners who are not members of the party and allow them to run for Westminster next May in a bid to “hammer” the Labour Party, former SNP depute leader Jim Sillars said.
The veteran campaigner spoke out as SNP activists considered the best way forward for the independence movement in the wake of the referendum defeat.
New SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has already said she is ‘’open to exploring the possibility’’ of fielding non-party members as candidates.
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Mr Sillars claimed the Labour Party and its supporters were the main “block” to the SNP being successful in large parts of the central belt.
As he called for non-party members to stand on a wider pro-independence ticket, he also said that 2016 should be the “target period for demanding independence”.
Outgoing First Minister Alex Salmond has previously described September’s independence referendum as a “once-in-a-generation event”.
But Mr Sillars said the Oxford English Dictionary defined a generation as being 30 years and added: “At my age I can’t wait that long.”
He said that May’s general election would be “round two” in Scotland’s campaign for independence as he argued: “The SNP should be big enough and wise enough to reach out to significant people in the (pro-independence) movement and field a single candidate in each constituency to maximise the vote that we take to Westminster on behalf of Scotland.”
Mr Sillars, who was speaking at a fringe event at the SNP conference in Perth, said: “You have to analyse the position we are in. What is the block in front of us between now and next May - it’s called the Labour Party and Labour voters.
“If we want to be able to go into the central belt and win, we have to remove the influence of the Labour Party. We’ve got to hammer the Labour Party. The question for the SNP is how best to do that.
“I would argue having candidates who are not members of the SNP, but run on their own ticket supported by the party, but running on independence, that’s the best way to remove Labour.”
He said that by 2016 - the year of the next Holyrood elections - “lots of people, particularly in the central belt, who voted No will bitterly regret having done so”.
He continued: “If you think we have suffered austerity up until just now, you have made a mistake.
“That was a beneficial period people will come to see. There are huge cuts coming, between £27 billion and £43 billion of cuts in the next Parliament.
“We’ve got to make 2016 the target period for demanding independence.”
Christine Grahame, the SNP MSP Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, told the same meeting she had offered to stand as a candidate south of the border in the general election in a bid to help the party win a spot in the nationwide TV leaders debates.
At the moment, broadcasters have no plans to include the SNP leadership in any of the UK-wide debates that will be screened in the run-up to May.
Ms Grahame revealed: “I have offered to stand in Berwick as a candidate so we can get equal coverage on the television because we fight throughout the UK.
“I can still keep my seat in the Scottish Parliament but then they would have to say we stand all over the UK, we should have all our leaders in these debates.”
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