SNP '˜not planning' 2nd indyref after Brexit

The SNP Government is not planning a second referendum on Scottish independence in the event of Brexit because 'they don't think they can win', one of the country's leading business figures claimed yesterday.

Picture: TSPL
Picture: TSPL

David Watt, head of the Institute of Directors in Scotland, told industry leaders yesterday that a number of “senior” figures have indicated that a quickfire second referendum is not on the cards at the moment.

It came as a second leading SNP politician inside a week played down the prospect of another vote on the constitution because the Yes camp may lose.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has made it clear that if the UK votes to leave the EU while Scotland votes to Remain - as the latest polls indicate is increasingly likely - it would represent a “material change” which could trigger a second Scots vote on leaving the UK.

But Scots are still likely to vote to remain in the UK, according to all the most up to date polls.

And Mr Watt told a business breakfast meeting at the IoD’s new Scottish base in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square base, just four doors along from Nicola Sturgeon’s official Bute House residence, that ministers have cooled on the prospect of a speedy independence vote after Brexit.

He said; “A number of fairly senior people in a variety of sectors have said to me that contrary to the common belief, along at Bute House they’re not really planning for a referendum because they don’t actually think they could win it right now.”

The IoD regional director even joked that SNP ministers “must be panicking” that the EU vote goes the way of a Leave to bring about such a dilemma.

The SNP manifesto said Holyrood should “have the right” to hold a second referendum if there were “clear and sustained evidence” that most Scots wanted one or if there were a material change in circumstances compared to 2014.

But the Edinburgh South West MP Joanna Cherry also yesterday played down the prospect of a second independence referendum in the immediate aftermath of Brexit, even though this was likely to see support for leaving the UK rise.

She said: “We’re not going to hold another referendum until we think we’ve got a very good chance of winning it. So we want to watch public opinion to see which way public opinion is going.

She added: “If we lose a second referendum, that’s the issue off the agenda for a good while, as we’ve seen in Quebec.

We didn’t convince everyone last time, so we can’t just hold another referendum and assume that we’re going to win it. A minority of people might want us to do that.

“We’re not going to hold another referendum until a majority of people want us to do that. That’s respect for democracy, and it’s also tactical self-interest.”

A recent poll showed a majority of people – 48 per cent to 44 per cent – said they did not want a second independence referendum if Scotland was taken out of Europe against its will. Ms Sturgeon has said there would have to be clear support among a majority of Scots in a series of polls over a number of months for her to contemplate calling for a second poll.

But she did say during the referendum campaign that she expected to hold a second referendum during her premiership.

The SNP’s transport minister Humza Yousaf, who is heading up the party’s Remain campaign, also urged caution last week over the prospect of a second quickfire referendum after Brexit, insisting this would bring “difficulties” for the independence argument.

He insisted yesterday that the EU referendum is of “real importance” to Scotland.

Mr Yousaf said; “The fact is that Scotland benefits enormously from our place in Europe –the EU guarantees important social protections such as employment rights and parental leave, membership of the world’s largest single market helps to create jobs and investment in Scotland and the freedom of movement enables Scots to travel, work and study across the EU and allows skilled EU migrants to work in our NHS and other vital sectors.”

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