NICOLA Sturgeon has warned the SNP that there are no “shortcuts” to a second independence referendum, saying the party had to persuade more people to vote Yes.
On the first anniversary of last year’s poll, Ms Sturgeon told SNP parliamentarians that they had to grow support from independence from 45 per cent to a clear majority in the “years ahead”.
The First Minister also used the occasion, which saw Yes supporters hold marches for independence in Edinburgh and Glasgow, to kickstart the SNP’s campaign for next year’s Scottish election.
With the 2016 poll 230 days away, the First Minister said the SNP’s goal was to win a majority at Holyrood.
Ms Sturgeon’s remarks will be seen as an attempt to manage the expectations of those who are clamouring for another poll.
In a speech to an audience of MPs and MSPs in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon suggested that the United Kingdom was “living on borrowed time” and warned there would be “unstoppable” demand for another indyref if Scotland found itself facing an EU exit that it did not vote for.
We want to see the Scottish Government do its day jobRuth Davidson
But she tempered her message with a warning that there was more work to be done. “If we are to win independence, we must convince a majority of Scots that it represents the best future for Scotland,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“That was true last year. It is true now and it will be true at all times in the future. There are no shortcuts. Independence won’t happen just because its supporters become more impatient for change. An even more committed, enthusiastic and impatient 45 per cent is still just 45 per cent.
“If Scotland is to become more independent, we must build the support for independence. Just as in the referendum campaign it grew from 30 per cent to 45 per cent, we must in the years ahead take it from 45 per cent to a clear majority. That means we must persuade the people we failed to persuade last year.
“That means understanding why they voted No. And it means addressing those concerns, patiently, carefully and comprehensively. That is our challenge.”
Ms Sturgeon’s speech saw her attempt a balancing act of ensuring that her supporters do not grow impatient by holding out on the goal of a second vote while delaying attempts to conduct another referendum until she believes the SNP can win it.
Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, said: “Nicola Sturgeon is trying to ride both horses at the moment - she’s trying to reassure the country, but also fire up her membership.
“Today she’s been talking about the Union being on borrowed time, but she’s also been telling her members that an impatient 45 per cent is still only 45 per cent.
“She seems to think a second referendum is her plaything and she can call it at the point which the SNP can win it. That’s her being the First Minister for the SNP and not of Scotland.
“I think business and people in Scotland want to see less wrangling over the constitution - we had a debate, we made a decision, and want to see the Scottish Government do its day job and focus on schools, on hospitals, on the police force, on the economy. That’s what we need to see in this country now.”
Shortly after Ms Sturgeon spoke, her predecessor as leader Alex Salmond declared that independence for Scotland was the “way the wind is blowing”.
Mr Salmond was insistent that it was inevitable Scotland will leave the UK at some point.
The former SNP leader spoke as he signed copies of The Dream Shall Never Die - his book about the referendum campaign - in Glasgow.
In the run-up to the September 18 vote, crowds of pro-independence supporters would follow Mr Salmond on the campaign trail, while yesterday about 30 people were waiting at the book-signing event at a shopping centre in the city.
Since the referendum, support for the SNP has surged, with the party winning all but three of the 59 seats in Scotland in May’s general election - which also saw Mr Salmond return to Westminster as the MP for Gordon.
Membership of the party, which is now led by Nicola Sturgeon, is more than 110,000 while polls suggest the SNP will win another majority in next year’s Holyrood elections.
When asked if independence was now inevitable, Mr Salmond said: “Yes. It’s the way the wind is blowing.” Alistair Darling, the former leader of the Better Together campaign, disagreed, claiming Ms Sturgeon did not want another vote.
The former chancellor said: “It’s quite clear that she doesn’t want a referendum and she is letting them down gently but letting them down she is.”
Launching the SNP’s election campaign, Ms Sturgeon announced the appointment of Deputy First Minister John Swinney as campaign director, taking the place of Angus Robertson, who has held the role in the past.
SNP sources said Mr Robertson had stepped aside because his hands were full as a result of his job as the party’s Westminster leader.
The SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie will be in charge of the manifesto, while the SNP’s youngest MP, Mhairi Black, has been handed a new role spearheading the youth campaign to encourage teenage voters to support her party.