Former SNP leader Gordon Wilson has warned that a vote to leave the EU against Scotland’s will may not necessarily lead to growing support for independence, and advised Nicola Sturgeon to proceed “with extreme caution”.
The intervention came as Ms Sturgeon said there would be an “inescapable” shift in public opinion towards independence to guarantee Scotland’s continued EU membership.
The First Minister claimed it was “inevitable” that people who voted No in the 2014 referendum would change their minds if Scotland was outvoted by the rest of the UK.
However, Mr Wilson warned the EU “is no friend of Scottish independence because of potential secessionist perils in Belgium, Spain and Northern Italy”. He added: “The SNP Government should proceed with extreme caution before seeking another referendum based on Scotland acceding to the EU.”
Ms Sturgeon, in her first full interview since 23 June was named as the date for the In-Out referendum on Europe, was asked if a vote to leave the EU against the majority of Scots’ opinion would definitely trigger another independence referendum.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, she replied: “Almost certainly.
“I think that would be the demand of people in Scotland.
“But if you cast your mind back to the Scottish referendum, the No campaign then said if Scotland voted Yes then our membership of the EU would be at risk. That was rubbish then, but that was a key argument. If, a couple of years later, we find ourselves, having voted to stay in the EU, being taken out against our will, I think there will be many people – including people who voted No in 2014 – who would say the only way to guarantee our EU membership is to be independent. That, I think, is inescapable.”
However, opposition parties said Ms Sturgeon was manoeuvring for a second independence referendum.
Shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said: “With the Tories hopelessly divided and the SNP tying themselves in knots about why we should share sovereignty with our neighbours across the Channel, but not across the Tweed, it will fall to the Labour Party to make the case for why being a part of Europe is best for working people the length and breadth of our country.”
Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont added: “As always with the SNP, everything comes back to their campaign for independence.”