Scottish Parliament Election 2021: John Swinney denies SNP being ‘deliberately ambiguous’ over date of future second independence referendum

John Swinney has rejected the suggestion that the SNP is being “deliberately ambiguous” over the possible date of a fresh Scottish independence referendum, as he vowed his party would focus “relentlessly” on tackling the coronavirus crisis.

It comes after the First Minister said she hoped to hold a vote within the first half of the next parliamentary term, but the SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, suggested a vote could be held later this year.

Speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland (GMS) programme, the Deputy First Minister said he wanted to see a referendum held “once we've got to a position of stability in relation to the handling of Covid”.

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“We will continue as a government to focus as relentlessly on tackling Covid as we have done over the last 12 months, and once we get to a position of stability, and we begin to see the signs of recovery taking place, we will be in a position to ask the people of Scotland to decide on their constitutional future.”

GMS’s Martin Geissler said there had been “some fairly wild variations” on suggested dates for a second referendum by SNP figures.

Asked whether the party was being “deliberately ambiguous” about the timeframe to avoid being pinned down, Mr Swinney replied: “The First Minister has said that she would hope to be in a position to be able to do this within the first half of this parliamentary term.

“I think that's a reasonable timescale for us to consider.”

John Swinney has rejected the suggestion that the SNP is being “deliberately ambiguous” over the possible date of a fresh Scottish independence referendum.John Swinney has rejected the suggestion that the SNP is being “deliberately ambiguous” over the possible date of a fresh Scottish independence referendum.
John Swinney has rejected the suggestion that the SNP is being “deliberately ambiguous” over the possible date of a fresh Scottish independence referendum.

‘To deliver as we have delivered’

Mr Swinney also defended his own handling of the Scottish Government’s education brief.

Last month, an Audit Scotland report found that progress on closing the poverty-related attainment gap since 2013/14 had been “limited” and "falls short" of ministers' aims.

The watchdog said the gap “remains wide”, and also warned that inequalities have been made worse by the Covid pandemic.

Nicola Sturgeon said she hoped to hold a vote within the first half of the next parliamentary term, but the SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, suggested a vote could be held later this year.Nicola Sturgeon said she hoped to hold a vote within the first half of the next parliamentary term, but the SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, suggested a vote could be held later this year.
Nicola Sturgeon said she hoped to hold a vote within the first half of the next parliamentary term, but the SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, suggested a vote could be held later this year.

Mr Swinney said: “We have narrowed the attainment gap at National 5 by a third, and at Highers by a fifth - and we always said it would be a longer term endeavour.

“The SNP has set out in our manifesto a commitment to deliver as we have delivered over the last four years.”

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