Pete Wishart has told the SNP there is no point in “chastising” Leave voters as he revealed he is considering entering the race for the depute leadership of the party.
Mr Wishart’s said the SNP had to win back Leave voters in a depute leadership pitch which was interpreted as an attack on Nicola Sturgeon’s Brexit strategy.
Writing in the National newspaper, Mr Wishart appeared to take a swipe at Ms Sturgeon’s pro-EU stance which has been criticised for alienating the one million Scots who voted Leave. Mr Wishart said the party had to “unite the Yes movement and span the differing views about the European Union”.
He said: “On the EU there is no point chastising Leave SNP voters by simply extolling the virtues of an EU they feel alienated from. We have to construct a way forward which they can feel comfortable with.
“Unless something dramatically happens within the next few months Scotland will find itself out of the EU as part of the UK in a year’s time and we have to face up to that reality. I would suggest a graduated approach for an independent Scotland rejoining the European Union with a series of steps and breaks where we can properly consider our progress. These steps would be EEA [European Economic Area], then EFTA [European Free Trade Association] then full EU membership.”
He added: “The last and most important step of rejoining the EU should only be taken with, at the very least, the full consent of an independent Scottish Parliament with a majority of members elected on a platform of rejoining the European Union. This approach, I believe, would bring back many EU voters that we have lost over the past year.”
Last night Scottish Conservative MP Ross Thomson said: “Pete Wishart’s comments can only be read as a sharp criticism of Nicola Sturgeon’s poor leadership since the EU referendum. It’s Nicola Sturgeon who has led the way in chastising leave voters over the last 18 months.”
Mr Wishart, the Perth and North Perthshire MP, also believes the party has to consider how to overcome the challenges that lie in the way of securing a Yes vote in a second referendum. He said there should be an “honest assessment” of why the SNP lost 21 seats in last year’s general election.
A key part of his strategy will be taking a “graduated approach” for an independent Scotland rejoining the EU, via the EEA and EFTA.