Jim Sillars: Indyref2 campaigners should focus on economy

Independence supporters need to convince Scots that leaving the UK will provide people with a 'good life free from poverty' if they are to win a possible second referendum, as veteran nationalist said.

Former deputy leader of the SNP, Jim Sillars. Picture: Neil Hanna
Former deputy leader of the SNP, Jim Sillars. Picture: Neil Hanna

Jim Sillars, a former deputy leader of the SNP, insisted economic arguments would be crucial to the outcome of such a vote, as he blasted some SNP politicians for claiming leaving the UK would be “painful in the immediate short term” and for portraying a picture of “hair shirt independence”.

There is much speculation over the timing of another independence vote after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned it was “highly likely” following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union against the wishes of Scottish voters.

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Former first minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond has already said he expected such a vote to take place in “roughly two years’” time

But Mr Sillars, who was deputy leader of the party under Mr Salmond, stated: “This is not a time for bravado forecasts about the timing of a second referendum.

“It is a time for the Yes movement to think strategically and tactically to, first, consolidate the support we have, and then to win others over to create a substantial majority.”

The former Labour MP, who went on to win a famous by-election for the SNP in Glasgow Govan in 1988, spoke out as he addressed a rally of independence supporters in Edinburgh.

He said: “We cannot win by telling people who have suffered years of low wages, high levels of poverty, and sanctions, that independence offers more of the same.

“To win the next referendum the Yes movement has to inspire our people to believe that once free from a debt-ridden UK, independent power exercised over our material and human resources will free them from austerity, and provide a better standard of living.”

Figures published last month showed Scotland’s deficit to be almost £15 billion - the equivalent of 9.5% of GDP - as a result, in part, of plummeting oil and gas revenues.

But Mr Sillars said it was “Orwellian” that the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) statistics had been used to make the case against independence.

He insisted: “GERS is, in fact, a condemnation of Scotland in the UK. The GERS figures are the reason, not for staying, but for leaving the UK.”

He added: “This isn’t a time for big N nationalism which seeks independence as a means of escaping from English hegemony. It is a time for economic nationalism that says only with its own distinct economic model, based on the sovereign ability to escape the failing UK, will Scotland be able to provide all of our people with a good life, free from poverty.

“We will win or lose on the economic arguments. We lost last time on the poor quality of the economic arguments in the SNP’s White Paper. When some tell us not to bother too much with the economy, just remember what happened when the currency arguments, a key economic tool, damaged us, fatally, in 2014.”