Independence supporters ‘delusional’ if they expect second referendum soon

Independence supporters are “delusional” if they expect a second Scottish referendum to take place in the near future, a former Scottish Government minister has said.

While Nicola Sturgeon announced she will push ahead with plans for an independence vote before the next Holyrood elections in May 2021 if the UK quits the European Union, former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said the First Minister was tying to appease SNP activists ahead of the party’s upcoming conference.

SNP members are due to gather in Edinburgh this weekend, and with Brexit uncertainty continuing to plague the UK Government, the First Minister has been under pressure to name a date for a second ballot.

On Wednesday she confirmed to MSPs she will push ahead with plans for a second Scottish independence referendum within the next two years if the UK quits the EU.

But Mr MacAskill said: “Holding another referendum’s problematic and those expecting an immediate poll delusional.”

Ms Sturgeon has pledged new legislation, laying down the rules and regulations for a second independence vote, will be introduced to Holyrood “shortly”.

But in addition to that she announced she wants cross-party talks with opposition leaders about Holyrood’s powers, while a Citizens’ Assembly is also to be set up, to examine wider questions on Scotland’s future

Writing in The Scotsman, Mr MacAskill said: “Rather than seeking to maximise Scotland’s restricted hand, it’s to be another round of discussion and attempts at consensus building.”

He stated: “The talk of a poll before 2021 initially sounds positive but it’s heavily caveated and restricted by other factors. Will the UK have resolved its EU position by then? If that has been settled, can a poll even be carried out in time?

“But it allows her to reassure the party this weekend that she’s undaunted and the light undimmed.”

However Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said Ms Sturgeon was trying to keep the country’s options open in the face of a Westminster Government that does “not give a damn for the people of Scotland”.

And he insisted the SNP leader was “fulfilling the mandate that if Scotland was taken out of the EU against Scotland’s will that we would have a right to have a referendum”.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, the Finance Secretary said: “Scotland has to have its options open, we have to have the right to choose our future rather than leave it in the hands of Westminster, who have shown they do not give a damn for the people of Scotland.”

On the offer of cross-party talks, he said Ms Sturgeon was “trying to reach out to other opposition parties, to say ‘if not this then what’ and try to identify a way forward”.

And he said: “We’re putting in the foundations to enable referenda to happen and in terms of independence ensure that we have that choice in this term of the Scottish parliament, fulfilling a mandate that ultimately the SNP has won elections on.”