Ukraine conflict should not derail SNP plans for indyref2 – Ian Blackford

However a former senior member of staff in the SNP said it is ‘unlikely’ such a vote will be held before the end of 2023.

20 March 2022

The war in Ukraine should not result in plans for a second Scottish independence referendum being pushed back, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has indicated.

His comments came as a former senior member of staff within the SNP claimed it is “unlikely” a ballot on Scotland’s future in the UK will take place within Nicola Sturgeon’s preferred timeframe.

The Scottish First Minister has repeatedly said her intention is to hold another referendum by the midway point in this Holyrood term – although the UK Government remains against such plans.

Kevin Pringle, who was a special adviser to former first minister Alex Salmond and held key roles within the SNP and the Yes Scotland campaign, said it is “unlikely” there will be a fresh vote on the issue by the end of next year “given the hurdles to be overcome”.

Yes supporters
Former SNP staffer Kevin Pringle had said an independence referendum ‘is unlikely to take place by the end of next year’ (PA)

Writing in the Sunday Times, Mr Pringle said: “It is unwise to make any definite predictions in such volatile times, but it seems reasonable to say out loud that an independence referendum is unlikely to take place by the end of next year, given the hurdles to be overcome and extensive preparations required.

“I don’t think the war in Ukraine has changed this, in the sense that it was no more likely before the Russian invasion and all the destruction and instability being wreaked.”

However Mr Blackford is insistent that the conflict in Ukraine should not delay plans for indyref2.

Speaking on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show, he said: “Is anybody suggesting that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin should determine the timeline for an independence referendum in Scotland?”

The SNP MP pointed out his party had fought last year’s Scottish Parliament election on a manifesto which included a commitment to holding a second vote on independence.

The SNP failed to win an outright majority at Holyrood, but Green MSPs – who also back another referendum – mean there is a majority for such a vote in the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Blackford said: “We fought an election last year, which the SNP won, we now have an agreement with the Greens, there’s a majority for independence.”

UK, English and Scottish flags
The SNP had in its election manifesto last year a commitment to stage indyref2 in the next Parliament (PA)

Mr Pringle however cautioned that pushing to hold a vote by the end of next year could result in the SNP’s goal of increasing support for independence being “undermined”.

He said: “A referendum is a means to an end, nothing more. If the Scottish Government pursues it within a tight 2023 timescale that people are uncomfortable with, even assuming it doesn’t happen then, the task of building support for independence itself may be undermined.”

Mr Pringle said the “mandate” SNP and Green MSPs were elected on last May was to hold a referendum in the current five-year Scottish Parliament term.

With four years still to go, he added: “That provides time enough to get it right.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of the pro-UK campaign group Scotland in Union, said: “Any sensible politician knows that this is not the time to be pursuing constitutional division and pulling Scotland apart.”

She said Mr Blackford is “rowing back on his previous comments to appease a minority who want to continue the nationalist campaign to leave the UK”.

Ms Nash said “respected observers like Kevin Pringle recognise there shouldn’t be another referendum next year”.

She added: “At this difficult time, we need politicians working to unite communities, not stoking fresh division.”

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