SNP’s Ian Blackford: Scottish independence day ‘coming soon’

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Scotland’s independence day is “coming soon”, Ian Blackford has claimed during a bad-tempered Commons debate.

The SNP’s Westminster leader warned the Conservative Party’s treatment of Scotland would accelerate separation, as he told of “real anger” among Scots at seeing Holyrood and their rights being “attacked” by the UK Government.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford. Picture: TSPL

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford. Picture: TSPL

Mr Blackford reiterated fears over Scottish Parliament powers being taken away via Brexit legislation, which has resulted in ongoing parliamentary skirmishes in Westminster between the parties.

For the UK Government, Scottish Secretary David Mundell said the SNP were guilty of “power-grab scaremongering, hot air and grandstanding stunts”.

At one stage, Speaker John Bercow urged MPs to “lower the temperature” due to the ferocity of the heckling and shouting in the chamber.

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The SNP’s motion, approved unopposed, urged the Commons to endorse the principles of the Claim of Right for Scotland and acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government “best suited to their needs”.

Leading the debate, Mr Blackford said: “Is it very fitting today, Mr Speaker, that the Scottish National Party uses our opposition day [debate] on July 4 - independence day [in the United States] - to defend the interests and the rights and the will of the Scottish people?”

After being heckled by a Scottish Tory MP, Mr Blackford said: “Listen, it might not be independence day to you but I’ll tell you this - the way the Conservative Party is treating Scotland, our independence day is coming and it’s coming soon.”

Labour’s Ian Murray (Edinburgh South), intervening, said: “You say Scotland’s independence is coming... the Scottish people did have a vote in 2014 and they agreed to stay in the United Kingdom.”

Mr Blackford said there had been a change in circumstances, including Scotland’s desire to stay in the EU while the UK Government wants to ignore them and “drive us” out of Europe.

He also railed against the “biggest power grab” conducted by Westminster since devolution in 1999, in a nod to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act, which transfers EU law into UK law.

The Scottish Parliament did not grant a legislative consent motion for the key Brexit legislation, prompting claims the Sewel Convention had been ignored.

This is the precedent that Westminster must have the consent of Holyrood to legislate on devolved matters.

The UK Government has previously said the Act delivers “significant further powers” to the Scottish Parliament, and it would seek consent unless there are “not normal circumstances applying” - describing Brexit as such an exception.

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Mr Blackford said “unknown territory” had been entered and urged the UK Government to bring forward legislation that protects the Scottish Parliament’s powers.

He added: “If [Mr Mundell] recognises his role in defending devolution he should do so.

“A failure to do that should mean, quite frankly, he should resign because he is not standing up for the interests of Scotland.”

Mr Mundell later said: “All we have now is manufactured grievances, they invent, they misrepresent, they abuse, they try to shout down those who disagree with them, they glory in childish stunts which embarrass the people they purport to represent.”

He also told MPs the debate told the public “everything about the SNP and their obsession with independence”.

Mr Mundell said: “They’re like a broken record, it’s less than two years since Parliament debated a claim of right at the behest of the SNP.

“Of course in the intervening time we have had an electoral test in Scotland, a General Election, the result as I recall it was the SNP losing 21 seats and 12 Conservative gains.

“That debate was a charade then, an excuse to talk about independence and it’s a charade today.”

Shadow Scottish secretary Lesley Laird warned the “flaming of the fires” of a second independence is being “fanned” by the UK Government.

The Labour MP said: “The complete inability of the UK Government to negotiate Brexit layered on top of the inability of the UK Government to engage in a meaningful way with the Scottish Government on Brexit has led us down this path.”

Ms Laird also accused the SNP of having shown “contempt” for issues of constituents by its choice of topic for debate.

Stephen Kerr, Conservative MP for Stirling, said: “The SNP government in Edinburgh agitating for a second independence referendum is a betrayal of the principle of popular sovereignty.

“When the people have spoken as they did, it is time for government to shut up.”