Ian Blackford: Scotland must have option to be independent EU nation

Ian Blackford: 'Scotland must have the choice'. Picture: PA
Ian Blackford: 'Scotland must have the choice'. Picture: PA
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The SNP’s Westminster leader infuriated the DUP in the aftermath of last night’s Commons votes on Brexit by claiming the Conservatives had “ripped up the Good Friday Agreement”.

Ian Blackford accused the UK Government of treating the Northern Irish peace process with contempt by supporting Brexiteer demands to replace the backstop in the EU withdrawal agreement and called for Scotland to have the option of becoming and independent EU state.

“Tonight the Conservative Party has effectively ripped apart the Good Friday Agreement,” Mr Blackford said.

The DUP’s Westminster leader Nigel Dodds replied that it was “utterly reckless to talk in those terms”.

Mr Dodds added: “Nobody in Northern Ireland, no political party, is advocating any kind of hard border in the island of Ireland, and we certainly do not advocate what others advocate, which is creating borders in the United Kingdom or ripping up the United Kingdom.”

In the latest escalation of constitutional rhetoric over Brexit, Mr Blackford said during the debate the UK Government must respect a demand from the Scottish Parliament for a second independence referendum.

“If our First Minister calls for a section 30 order, then his house must respect the will of the Scottish people,” he told the House of Commons.

Nicola Sturgeon is expected to reveal details of her timetable for a second independence vote within weeks, with the UK set to leave the EU at the end of March.

Mr Blackford said Scotland “must no longer be left at the mercy of events” and must have the choice to become an independent member of the EU.

“Whatever happens here, the SNP will not be dropping its policy of independence,” he said. To heckles from Conservative MPs, Mr Blackford continued: “I can see members shaking their heads because they’re running scared – like the Prime Minister, they fear they would lose an independence referendum.”

Meanwhile, former prime minister Tony Blair warned a no-deal Brexit could break up the UK.

“If we leave Europe and do a hard Brexit or a no-deal Brexit, I don’t think there’s any doubt it is going to impose a strain on the United Kingdom,” he said at a Brexit event yesterday.