Sillars: ‘New mandate for independence’ in 2016

Jim Sillars believes Keith Brown is best man to take over as deputy leader of the SNP. Picture: TSPL
Jim Sillars believes Keith Brown is best man to take over as deputy leader of the SNP. Picture: TSPL
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WESTMINSTER won’t let Scotland stage another referendum and the SNP should be ready to negotiate independence if it wins a majority at Holyrood in 18 months, a former Deputy leader of the party has said.

Jim Sillars says the closeness of the referendum result will have “frightened” pro-union leaders against agreeing to another vote - but insists this isn’t the only way to achieve independence.

The former Govan MP today backed transport minister Keith Brown for the Deputy Leadership of the party, insisting he is the candidate who is ready to engage the 50,000 new members who have joined in the party since the historic vote.

The referendum process was described as the “gold standard” by Mr Brown today and the only way to achieve independence.

But the former Deputy Leader disagreed and suggested Westminster won’t let Scotland have another one.

“We were given a referendum by the sovereign power of Westminster,” Mr Sillars said at a news conference in Edinburgh today.

“Although the SNP had the mandate for one, it couldn’t actually implement it, unless Westminster said Yes.

“The only reason they said yes this time is because they thought it was a skoosh. Having got a fright I very much doubt if they will concede another referendum which leaves open other options.”

The referendum was staged after Westminster agreed to a Section 30 order to transfer the legally binding authority to Scotland to stage the vote, set out in the Edinburgh Agreement signed by Alex Salmond and David Cameron.

But Mr Sillars added: “If a party - or a group of parties, because you’ll probably have the Greens and the SSP arguing for independence - if you get in the Holyrood parliament, a majority of the votes and the majority of the seats, then in my view, you have a mandate for independence.

“Then it’s up to Keith and others, if that happens, to have a dialogue with Westminster to see how that is in fact progressed.”

Mr Sillars, a former Labour MP and widower of the late Margo MacDonald, said it is likely that a majority will be achieved for pro-independence parties in 2016 because many No voters were “sold a pup” by Labour in the promise for more powers for Holyrood. This was thrown into doubt after David Cameron linked it with a “fairer” deal for England and other UK regions, including an end to the scenario which allows Scottish MPs to vote on English-only matter at Westminster, known as the West Lothian question.

Mr Brown accused ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown of acting as a “front” for the Tories during the referendum and is now “having to resort to petitions” to bolster his position.

SNP leadership has trebled to more than 75,000 and Mr Brown said they must all be involved in the process of drawing up a new manifesto, before deciding if a pledge to stage a fresh referendum will be in it.

The transport minister is up against youth employment minister Angela Constance and Westminster Treasury spokesman Stewart Hosie in the race for the deputy leadership. The post has been vacated by Nicola Sturgeon who is the only candidate to replace the departing Alex Salmond as party leader.

Mr Sillars accepted that he did not agree on everything with Mr Brown, but said this was “perfectly normal” in political parties.

But he added: “Keith wants to bring the party members more into policy making and alter the structures to ensure that that in fact happens.

“It’s extremely important in a political party if it’s to maintain its strength and if it’s to draw in the ability of the people who are party members.”