Speaking at The Scotsman’s latest virtual election Hustings on Tuesday evening, Lib Dem North East list candidate Rosemary Bruce said it was “just plain wrong” for Nicola Sturgeon’s party to ignore the challenges awaiting a newly independent Scotland outside the EU.
Quizzed on why her own party wanted Scotland to remain in the UK, despite its staunch opposition to Brexit, Ms Bruce said: “I was absolutely devastated with the result of the Brexit referendum and also the consequentials from that in terms of the so-called deal that has been produced.
“The long-term aim for the Liberal Democrats is to rejoin the European Union, but for the SNP – or any other party – to pretend that independence is that shortcut to rejoining is just wrong. It's just plain wrong.”
‘Absolutely years away’
The Councillor for Banchory & Mid Deeside added: “You have to create a nation, which takes years in terms of the deals that would have to take place.
“You'd have to set up your own central bank, your own currency – the SNP can't agree on that at all amongst themselves, let alone the country – and then you'd have to have unanimity from all the members of the European Union on whether to let another country join.
“That is absolutely years away at the best forecast that they could possibly be. So, we absolutely believe the best place for Scotland to be is within the United Kingdom, and ideally in the long term for the United Kingdom to be back in European Union.”
But the SNP’s Fergus Mutch told the hustings that it was “absolutely right” for Scots to revisit the question of independence in the wake of Brexit.
He said: “In 2014, there was a referendum. We were promised that we would stay in Europe. We were promised stability – a certain future within the UK – and that has come to not be the case whatsoever.
“On that basis it is absolutely right that Scotland should get to revisit that decision.”
SNP not ‘treading water’
The former SNP head of communications said organising Scotland’s recovery from coronavirus “isn't straightforward to do with the pairs that we currently have”.
He insisted the party was not “treading water” on constitutional issues and really was pushing for independence.
“It's not about ‘management’ of the powers that we currently have, it's about transformative change with the powers that we need to drive Scotland forward,” he said.
But Labour’s Michael Marra said it was clear the SNP was using the promise of a referendum to dodge more difficult questions over the challenges of independence.
He told the hustings: “They use the referendum idea as a way of talking about a process rather than actually the outcome of that.
“The First Minister has admitted in recent days that [the SNP] have not done any of the work … about the economic impact.”
Mr Marra added: “So there's a huge amount of work that would have to be done in two years – when we're told we're going to have this referendum if there's a majority SNP government elected next week.”