Veteran SNP member Jim Sillars has backtracked on a call he made in 2016, for a second referendum on Scottish independence to be held when the Scottish Parliament wants one.
In 2016, as part of a campaign video aimed at encouraging voters to back the left-wing alliance party RISE, Sillars said: “I’m voting RISE on the List in the Holyrood elections. They are going to table a resolution asserting the right of the parliament to have a mandate to hold an independence referendum when that parliament decides the time is right.”
On March 2017 the Scottish parliament voted in favour of a second independence referendum, endorsing the election win of the SNP. MSPs voted by 69 to 59 in favour of seeking permission for a referendum before the UK leaves the EU.
However Sillars has now backpedalled on his 2016 stance and is arguing no second referendum be held until polls show a sustained Yes lead of sixty percent.
In an article for the i paper, Sillars wrote: “If we are to build a majority, once we know what policies to deploy when the terms of Brexit are finally known, we need to be strong on the ground, capable of launching and sustaining an educational campaign to take us up to 60 per cent in the polls, and stay there over at least six months, so that our support is rock solid and our demand for a referendum unstoppable.
“This analysis, which I suspect is shared by Pete Wishart, is not a sell-out. It is the reality.”
The U-turn from Sillars has coincided with calls from veteran SNP MP Pete Wishart that a second referendum be postponed until “optimum conditions” have been met. Wishart’s stance has resulted in heated debate online with most pro-independence activists opposing his view. Despite calls from some bloggers to define ‘optimum conditions’, Wishart has declined to do so.
The U-turn by Jim Sillars on the timing of a second independence referendum has prompted some online commentators to claim he is only doing so because he wants to ensure Scotland is taken out of the EU. Sillars backed Brexit in the 2016 EU Referendum.
Responding to Sillars’ calls to postpone Indyref2 until a threshold of 60% has been reached, and sustained for six months, polling expert James Kelly said: “[Sillars] got a pleasant surprise when Britain voted to leave the European Union, and he’s now emotionally tethered to the idea of Scotland leaving European institutions when the rest of Britain does. What’s about to happen is a dream come true for a Eurosceptic, and he can’t bear the thought of independence getting in the way of it.”
Meanwhile two polls on social media appear to show overwhelming support for the Scottish Government to call an independence referendum much earlier than either Sillars or Wishart would like.
One poll by former blogger GA Ponsonby attracted over 2500 votes and showed 60% in favour of Indyref2 before the UK leaves the EU, with 18% wanting one within this term of government. Only 22% opted to delay another ballot until Yes was in the lead or when ‘voters want indyref2’.
A second poll run by SNP MP Angus Brendan MacNeil attracted over 5000 votes. It showed 66% of participants wanted a second referendum within 18 months, with 22% after 18 months but before 2021 and only 18% seeking a new mandate post-2021.
MacNeil himself revealed he favoured a second independence referendum within 18 months.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already confirmed she will make a decision on a second independence referendum when the terms of any Brexit deal become clearer. The SNP leader has urged the Tory government to remain in the Single Market and the Customs Union.
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