Together with Inverclyde councillor Chris McEleny, Western Isles MP MP Angus MacNeil want the manifesto for next year’s Holyrood elections to include a pledge that a pro-independence majority would be taken as a mandate to start negotiations with Westminster for Scotland to leave the UK – effectively turning the election in a de facto referendum. The SNP’s annual conference in June was cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – but with a virtual conference scheduled for the of next month, the pair were hoping to win support for the idea there.
However, they said SNP activists had been “denied the right to debate the party’s independence strategy” and were instead being offered an open mic session – which will not set party policy.
Mr MacNeil said: “Scotland should now be in a situation to free itself from this kamikaze cliff jump by the Tories, or more correctly the Scottish Government should be.
“However, the cold hard fact, which some of us may not want to admit to, is that we have no escape.”
The SNP’s current policy – which Mr MacNeil refers to as Plan A – relies on UK Prime Minister agreeing to grant Ms Sturgeon permission to call a second independence referendum in accordance with Section 30 of the Scotland Act 1988.
In a clear message to party leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Mr MacNeil added: “The Scottish Government is unarmed to fight or even ameliorate the choices that Tories have foisted on us.
“We have ended up here at the mercy of the Tories by our own hand. Unless we change our Plan-A-only policy, it doesn’t matter how much those who have the microphone boldly proclaim that Plan A has ‘momentum’ or that Boris Johnson’s position is ‘unsustainable’.
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“In advance of last year’s general election, it was said that we didn’t need a Plan B because Boris Johnson’s opposition to a referendum would be blown away by an SNP victory.
“We won a landslide at the general election and he still said no.
“If the SNP win a majority next year, and polls are showing even greater support for independence, are Westminster suddenly going to agree to a referendum when it’s even more likely that they will lose it?”
He argued the Plan B approach would put “political pressure on the UK Government to agree to a referendum” and also “makes it clear that the SNP will ensure the democratic voice of Scotland is heard”.
Mr MacNeil’s fellow SNP MP Peter Wishart suggested excluding the issue for debate was a “mistake”.
He tweeted: “We need this damaging debate concluded so we can unite around an agreed way forward.”
An SNP spokesman said: “Effective leadership during the global pandemic is proving a real boost to support for an independent Scotland.
“Next month’s SNP conference will focus on what’s important to the people of Scotland, and independence will very much be at the heart of debate.”
Commenting, Scottish Conservative Constitution Spokesman Dean Lockhart said: “In the middle of a pandemic, the last thing Scotland needs is another divisive independence referendum.
“For senior SNP MPs to be sharing their frustration over the subject shows exactly where their priorities lie.
“People across Scotland are worried about their jobs and livelihoods, not taking Scotland back to the divisions of the past.”