The Scottish people are ‘not quite ready yet’ for another independence referendum, the author of a major report on the economic case for an independent Scotland has admitted.
Andrew Wilson, who produced the SNP’s Growth Commission report on the economics of an independent Scotland also said he preferred a “soft independence” that would maintain the closest ties with the rest of the UK.
In an interview with the Sunday Herald, Mr Wilson hit back at critics on the left of the independence movement who have accused him of undermining their argument by suggesting Scotland would need years of “spending constraint” to build sustainable public finances.
“If you are on the radical left, you might take a cynical view, ‘Well who cares what the financial institutions think’, and that’s fine, but we have to build the country,” Mr Wilson said. “And we have to build and earn the right over time to do other things.”
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The former SNP MSP admitted that “people are leery of referendums” and were not fully prepared for another battle over Scotland’s constitutional future.
“I think people are leery of politics full stop, but they also want to be sure they do the right thing for the long term,” he said.
“I don’t think people are quite ready yet, but I think they are readying, should the question be required. I don’t know when that will be, whether it will be months or years. That’s a really difficult call.”
Comparing the potential for Scottish independence to the Brexit process, where argument continues to rage within the UK Government over how ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ the country’s exit from the EU should be, Mr Wilson said: “What we would be hoping for is the softest of possible changes, compared to the hardest that we are seeing Britain dealing with [in] Europe.
“You want us to be respectful of 300 years of reality. Not just for emotional reasons, but for economic reasons as well.”
He added: “I definitely believe a reformed Britain which is able to allow its constituent parts to have much more autonomy, and be much more in control of their affairs, is better than the situation we are in now.
“Would I ever be completely satisfied and stop arguing for Scotland to be the same as the countries that we’ve looked at? I suppose ultimately ‘no’ would be the answer to that.”
Ruth Davidson said Mr Wilson’s comments were an admission that “the Scottish people are sick and tired of Nicola Sturgeon’s independence obsession”.
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“When even the First Minister’s closest advisors are telling her that Scots don’t want to sever ties with the UK, it’s clear the nationalists are continuing to lose the argument,” the Scottish Conservative leader said.
“Nicola Sturgeon should stop trying to manufacture repeated grievance in attempt to shift the grounds for another referendum.
“Instead, the people of Scotland want to see her failing government sort out schools and hospital waiting times instead of dragging the country back to the arguments of the past.”