Fresh independence referendum will be SNP's focus at next election to solve Brexit 'crisis'

13 October 2019, 00:01

Ian Blackford will call for a fresh general election
Ian Blackford will call for a fresh general election. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

The SNP is set to call for a fresh general election, citing it as the "only option" to solve the Brexit "crisis".

Enabling a second Scottish independence referendum will be at the heart of the SNP's next election campaign, the party's Westminster leader will tell members on the first day of the party's conference in Aberdeen.

Ian Blackford is expected to say his party will retain its majority of Scottish seats at Westminster to reaffirm its mandate to hold a second referendum "if that's what it takes for any UK Government to listen".

In his speech, Mr Blackford will tell delegates the "only option" to address the Brexit "crisis" is to call a general election.

He will say: "The excuses for keeping Boris Johnson in office are running dry, and the patience of people in Scotland is running out. We must take the power out of Boris Johnson's hands - and put it back in the hands of the people.

"We will not play Boris Johnson's games and give in to his demands. But after years of Brexit crisis and chaos, the only option - the only option that truly puts a stop to this chaos - is to call a general election."

Ian Blackford will make his speech at the party's conference in Aberdeen
Ian Blackford will make his speech at the party's conference in Aberdeen. Picture: PA

Mr Blackford will continue: "We have already seen in the latest polls that support for independence is growing - as is support for an independence referendum.

"Those same polls show that a majority of people across the UK, not just Scotland, believe that we have the right to decide our own future.

"And conference - we have won that right.

"We have the mandate, we have a majority in Parliament and we've absolutely got the momentum.

"And no one - not Boris Johnson - not Jeremy Corbyn, not anyone - has any democratic right to block that decision from being made.

"But if the Tories are so scared of putting Scotland's future into the hands of Scotland's people, if they are determined to prevent us taking that democratic step - then the right to decide Scotland's future will be at the heart of the next election campaign."

Some party activists want a plan B option for independence if the UK Government continues with its opposition to granting a section 30 order giving consent for a second referendum - such as holding a Catalonian-style wildcat poll or taking winning a majority of seats at Westminster as a go-ahead for independence negotiations.

However, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has said holding a legal referendum is the only route for Scotland to secure independence.

Scotland voted to remain in the EU referendum in 2016
Scotland voted to remain in the EU referendum in 2016. Picture: PA

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, argued the SNP has no mandate or momentum for a second independence referendum.

She said: "The forthcoming general election should be about public services and policies, not about creating more division in society."

Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said: "The SNP cannot run on their appalling domestic record because their main achievements are worsening education standards, the longest waiting times in history and hospital building projects years late and millions over budget.

"The vast majority of polls show the Scottish people want to remain part of the UK but that doesn't stop the SNP.

"Independence is the SNP's only objective and the Scottish Conservatives are the only party that can stop them."