Kenny Gibson becomes latest SNP figure to speak out against the People's Vote

SNP opposition to Nicola Sturgeon's support of the People's Vote has grown with Kenny Gibson becoming the latest Nationalist politician to warn that backing it has implications for Scottish independence.
SNP MSP Kenny GibsonSNP MSP Kenny Gibson
SNP MSP Kenny Gibson

Mr Gibson, the MSP for Cunninghame North, has joined Pete Wishart MP, Angus McNeill MP and the former Cabinet Secretary Alex Neil MSP in voicing concerns.

Ms Sturgeon has said the SNP will support a referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal, sending a video message to that effect to the recent demonstration that saw 700,000 People's Vote marchers descend on London.

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But there are those within the SNP who believe that supporting a second Brexit referendum would create an unhelpful precedent, which would enable Unionists to demand another poll on any future Scottish independence deal.

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This week Mr Gibson rebelled against the SNP whip by failing to support an Holyrood vote for a second Brexit referendum. The vast majority of SNP MSPs joined with the Lib Dems and Greens to support an amendment calling for the People's Vote.

Speaking to the independence-supporting National newspaper, Mr Gibson said: “ Although I voted to remain, in my view a referendum should be binding for a generation unless there is a material change in circumstances.

“For example, in the 2014 independence referendum, the No campaign stated that voting Yes would mean Scotland would be ‘kicked out’ of the EU. It turns out that it is by voting No, that Scotland is now facing the exit door.

“Thus, a second independence referendum should be held, given that material change in circumstances.”

“Scotland has already made its view clear; we voted to stay. Yet on the EU front, nothing has changed ‘materially’ since 2016 in my view.

“I also believe that having a second vote on the Brexit package, sets a precedent. One I would not want to see imposed post indyref2.”

He added: “I have made my position on this issue clear in the SNP MSP group since October 2017 and was therefore being consistent in opposing the ‘unequivocal’ vote being called for.”

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Mr Neil did not vote in the Holyrood Brexit debate on Wednesday, but he told the National the SNP was “bounced” into supporting the policy after Ms Sturgeon annnounced SNP MPs would back a a second Brexit referendum on a TV interview.

Mr Neil said: “What I am first and foremost is a nationalist. I want independence for Scotland so I judge everything on the basis on whether advances or not the case for Scottish independence and based on that criteria I think it is a huge mistake to support the idea of a confirmatory referendum, which will be used against us by our opponents.”

“t then end of the day Westminster is still sovereign and they could impose a confirmatory referendum on us – and say well you have no right to complain because the SNP supported the same principle for the EU referendum.

“In a democratic party you have the discussion first and then reach a decision, that did not happen in this case. The conference effectively was bounced into it. [SNP MSPs] were not consulted as a group and the MPs were not consulted. And I think there is a lot of unhappiness with the decision as announced.

“It should have been put on the agenda well ahead of the SNP conference but unfortunately that didn’t happen. I’ve had calls from SNP MSPs who voted for the amendment [on Wednesday], not realising what they were voting for and now regret doing so. I think it’s a lesson for the future in terms of party democracy.”

He added: “If the choice is between loyalty to Brussels or loyalty to independence. Independence must come first. The SNP tends to be highly disciplined organisation and it is very clear on this issue there has been a public spat which is highly unusual in the SNP and that is because the way the decision was reached and the decision itself.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said: "These comments from senior SNP figures confirm without doubt that independence will always be the one and only priority for the SNP.

"They deserve credit for being honest with voters, whereas Nicola Sturgeon is only interested in using Brexit in a desperate attempt to boost support for independence. Whatever your views on Brexit, independence is not the answer. As the majority of people in Scotland recognise, we are better off as part of the UK."