SNP’s Ian Blackford: The right to stage indyref2 at heart of election campaign

The right to stage a referendum on Scottish independence will be “at the heart” of the forthcoming election campaign, according to SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford.
Westminster SNP leader Ian Blackford speaks during the SNP spring conference at the EICC in Edinburgh. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA WireWestminster SNP leader Ian Blackford speaks during the SNP spring conference at the EICC in Edinburgh. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Westminster SNP leader Ian Blackford speaks during the SNP spring conference at the EICC in Edinburgh. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

He issued the rallying call as Nationalists gather in Aberdeen today for the party’s Autumn conference as the Brexit talks head down to the wire and widespread expectation grows of a general election in the coming months.

Blackford insists that a majority of Scots believe they have the right to hold a second referendum and the pro-independence majority at Holyrood - including the six Greens - means a mandate currently exists.

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“We’ve absolutely got the momentum,” Blackford is expected to say in a keynote speech today.

“And no one – not Boris Johnson – not Jeremy Corbyn, not anyone - has any democratic right to block that decision from being made.

“But if the Tories are so scared of putting Scotland’s future into the hands of Scotland’s people, if they are determined to prevent us taking that democratic step – then the right to decide Scotland’s future will be at the heart of the next election campaign. Because if what it takes for any UK Government to listen, is for us to re-affirm the democratic mandate of the Scottish Parliament that we already have by winning a majority of Scotland’s Westminster seats then I say this to the Prime Minister –

bring it on.”

Polls indicate that support for independence has been slowly rising in recent months, although Scots remain split down the middle on the issue.

Senior party figures, such as former health secretary Alex Neil, have suggested that a majority SNP victory at an election could serve as a catalyst for independence if Westminster won’t grant a referendum on the issue. But Nicola Sturgeon insistsa legally binding referendum would be required.

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union insisted there is no mandate for a repeat of the 2014 independence vote.

“The forthcoming General Election should be about public services and policies, not about creating more division in society”, she said

Meanwhile, Blackford has also made a renewed appeal to opposition parties at Westminster to come together to oust Boris Johnson from Downing Street in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit, despite talks breaking down.

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In an interview with Scotland on Sunday, the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber said public arguments between Labour and the Liberal Democrats were “just not helpful” and that the electorate would punish any party viewed to be putting its self-interests ahead of stopping a potential no-deal.

Opposition parties ware expected to meet again in the coming days, but formal talks are not currently scheduled.

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson has categorically ruled out her party’s MPs voting to make Jeremy Corbyn a caretaker PM, which would first require a motion of no confidence to be passed in Johnson’s administration.

Blackford said: “I have no particular desire to see Jeremy Corbyn, or anyone else for that matter, in No 10, but I do have a desire to meet our responsibilities to get an extension and then call an election.

“Much of the discussion has been about forming a government. I think that misses the point. Of course we have to put someone into office – there’s a constitutional requirement to do that.

“There are a couple of things that are important – the first is there’s a specific desire to guarantee that a letter is sent to request extension. But there’s also a requirement that once that is done, there is an immediate calling of an election.

“This is not about forming a government. It’s a fact of the constitution – the Queen has to appoint a prime minister, there is no way round that. Even during an election period, a government has to be in place.

“What we are doing is giving the public their right to have a say on what kind of government they want. For us in Scotland, it’s about determining our future – should it be a government in London or should the Scottish Parliament have the right to call a referendum?

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“The fact we have what appears to be a public squabble [between Corbyn and Swinson] is just not helpful. If we do end up crashing out at the end of October with no-deal, those that refuse to make compromises and work together, I suspect the electorate will extract a price from them.”