Scottish independence: Mhairi Black says SNP must do more to explain why they want independence and its ‘purpose’

SNP Westminster deputy leader Mhairi Black has called for the party to do more to convince voters on why they want Scottish independence.

The newly-elevated MP suggested there was a “disconnect” between some in Scotland who understand what the party believes, but haven’t been given enough reasons to support the independence push.

Her comments come with four successive polls having shown a resurgence in the Yes vote. The latest survey conducted by YouGov this week revealed that when undecided and non-voters are excluded, 53 per cent would vote Yes on independence, while 47 per cent would vote to remain in the Union.

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Speaking exclusively to Scotland on Sunday, Black also paid tribute to former SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, as well as hailing his replacement Stephen Flynn for “energising” the SNP.

Mhairi Black said her party must do more to explain why they believe independence would benefit Scotland.Mhairi Black said her party must do more to explain why they believe independence would benefit Scotland.
Mhairi Black said her party must do more to explain why they believe independence would benefit Scotland.

Asked about her own new role, having replaced Kirsten Oswald, who stood down, the Paisley and Renfrewshire MP said it was Flynn’s vision that inspired her to stand.

She said: "I wasn’t ever really planning on standing for deputy, but it came about after a good few conversations. It just sounded like something really positive and if I could play a role in it, I'd be humbled to do so.

“It was more when Stephen was talking to me about his vision for how things could look, how they could be, I just thought ‘that sounds really refreshing’.

“I know that what Stephen is basically hoping for is refocusing why we’re all there, to build on the work that has been done not just by Ian Blackford, but [now constitution secretary] Angus Robertson before him.

“It’s more realising the UK has changed over the last five years. We should not be afraid to respond to those changes with equal vigour, and with three key goals.

“We should be holding the [UK] Government to account, representing our constituents and convincing people why we talk about independence as much as we do, because there’s been a disconnect.

“They know we support independence rather than why. We need to do more to explain it’s not just some random hobby, it’s for a purpose.”

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The new deputy leader has previously been an outspoken critic of some of the language used around independence. She said terms like “chained” made sense given Westminster’s refusal to grant a second referendum, but she took issue with phrases like “colonies”.

Black said: “I know that there are times when the word colony gets used and I know what people mean when they say it, but it does a massive disrespect to actual colonies that Scotland played a part in colonising.

"It’s not the best language to be using. But in terms of the unequal nature, I don’t have a problem with people using words like chained – look at the Supreme Court verdict.

"The power to hold a referendum lies at Westminster, but minister after minister has been asked how we get that referendum and we are getting nothing. It proves the point this is not an equal partnership, and Scotland deserves better than that.

"Scotland has not voted Conservative in 67 years, but the majority of governments have been Conservative. That is just ludicrous.”

Flynn took over from Blackford – the Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP – last week in what some considered an act that would divide the party.

However, Black insisted the new Westminster chief was a natural leader, and would bring the party together.

Flynn has already instigated a widespread reshuffle for the Westminster front bench, finding roles for those who ran against him to replace Blackford.

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Alison Thewliss, who stood against Flynn as the only other candidate in the leadership contest, was given the home affairs role, while Stuart McDonald, who ran alongside her, was appointed to justice and immigration.

The reshuffle followed the announcement from SNP MPs Stewart McDonald, Chris Law and Pete Wishart they were stepping down to go to the back benches.

Black said: “I am really excited. I think he’s [Flynn’s] incredibly driven, he’s energised, and really, really focused. I believe him when he says ‘this is what I want to do’.

"He’s taken account of everyone’s views, which to me is leadership material when you are able to bring people with you.”

Black also paid tribute to Blackford, who since standing down has taken a new role of business ambassador for the SNP.

Blackford has said he hopes to fully dedicate himself to making the case for Scottish independence with businesses and other Scottish parties – a role Black believes he’ll excel in.

Elected alongside 61-year-old Blackford in 2015, Black said: “When I first came in my role was pensions spokesperson and I would do that with Ian Blackford.

“He was really fundamental to me finding my feet in Westminster, and watching him rise to becoming group leader, I was very proud of him, knowing the support he gave me and could give to the rest of his group.

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“With this new role, I think he’s going to be brilliant at engaging more with business where there is that disconnect. that applies not just to the public, but undecided industries.

“He can help explain why and how our independence could benefit Scotland.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had wanted to hold an independence referendum on October 19 next year, but the Supreme Court ruled last month the Scottish Parliament cannot legislate in this area.

It has left the SNP Government pursuing a new strategy, with Ms Sturgeon saying making the next general election a ‘de-facto referendum’ on independence is the only lawful way for Scots to express their will.

Black suggested one of the new tactics for the SNP’s Westminster group under Flynn would be doing more to criticise Labour, saying it would help “get across” why the SNP support independence.

She said: “Personally I am cut from a Labour cloth, and what kills my spirit all the time is knowing even if Labour did become the government, what would be different, what would it do?“To me, it smashes this idea that Labour are trying to sell that they need Scottish votes to win.

"No, they need English votes to win a government and that’s why we see Labour endlessly being dragged to the right. It’s now a party that says no to immigration and yes to closing borders.

"It feels like we are in the dying days of an empire, and Britain has to have an honest conversation about what state it’s in. I don’t think Labour are going to do that”.

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Black pointed to the example of former prime minister Gordon Brown coming out with his UK constitutional reform plans, published earlier this month, that would see the House of Lords abolished.

She said: “It always starts [as] we’ll abolish, then it’s reform, then it is watered down ‘til actually it is not changing anything at all.”

Photographed breaking ScotRail’s rules by sipping from a can of lager on a train from Glasgow Central earlier this year, Black again apologised, but hinted the rules should be changed.

Video footage had shown Black drinking from a can while travelling from Glasgow Central after a football match.

The act is prohibited under existing ScotRail policy. No alcohol can be drunk at any station in Scotland or on board any ScotRail train under a 24-hour ban first introduced in 2020 amid wider Covid prevention measures.

The policy has been retained despite a ScotRail board recommendation earlier this year, which preferred a return to pre-pandemic rules.

Black said: “I know it was introduced during the Covid pandemic and that’s fine, and I had assumed it got lifted, so that was my mistake.

“In terms of going forward, I think most policies should be reviewed and looked at.”



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