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Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader said the party would have a platform to hold indyref2 “quickly” if they won the Scottish Parliament elections in May. In an interview ahead of the SNP conference, the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber said the party should focus on the Holyrood vote first but stressed independence on the cards next year.
In an official confirmation on the matter, Mr Blackford said: “We need to demonstrably show that the people of Scotland are determined that they will have their say and in the first case, we have to win this election for the people of Scotland.
“To be able to be respectful to those who are not currently with us that we’re appealing to join us; about that denial of democracy that is currently taking place and to affirm that it is the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to determine their own future; and come what may, we will prevail.
“That referendum will take place and we need to plan that that referendum must take place in 2021.”
He stressed to the Sunday National newspaper the coronavirus pandemic had led to the vote being delayed.
He continued: “COVID has come along and the Scottish Government in particular, has had to take its responsibilities of stewarding the country through this crisis.
“So we’ve had to, from a tactical point of view, put off holding a referendum in 2020 and I apologise that that was the case.”
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross branded Ian Blackford’s comments as “deeply disrespectful”.
The Moray MP said: “Ian Blackford’s commitment to a referendum a few months from now is not just irresponsible but delusional and shows how out of touch the SNP are.
“The Scottish Conservatives are focusing on fighting the pandemic and rebuilding the economy.
“That is what people want and expect.”
He added: “The fact he feels the need to apologise for not staging a referendum this year as thousands of lives in Scotland have been lost and families continue to mourn is deeply disrespectful but also telling about the SNP’s obsession with independence over everything else.”
Alex Rowley, Scottish Labour MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife said: “It is just ludicrous in the midst of a public health crisis and economic meltdown to be talking about holding an independence referendum.
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“The SNP need to get a grip on reality and put the interests of Scotland first”.
Jamie Halcro Johnston, Tory MSP for Highlands and Islands tweeted: “Despite lives and livelihoods still being lost, the SNP continue to push their divisive referendum in the middle of the #coronavirus pandemic.”
Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister also responded to Mr Blackford’s comments during an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday morning.
Mr Brown said: “I think most Scottish people will make up their mind that in the middle of a virus when you’ve got to heal the virus, you’ve got to heal the recession and you’ve got to look at the whole future of Britain – and the SNP have got to come clean about what it now means for independence, now you’ve got economic changes taking place – I don’t think this is the right time at all.”
Latest polling from YouGov’s latest research puts support for Scotland leaving the UK at 51 percent, with 49 percent wanting the country to remain in the union.
A separate study by Panelbase for the Scot Goes Pop pro-independence website found when those who did not know were excluded, 56 percent of Scots back independence and 44 percent are opposed.
But Pamela Nash, chief executive of Unionist campaign group Scotland in Union, added: “This is an insulting and irresponsible suggestion from Ian Blackford.
“We are struggling with a devastating pandemic that is costing lives and it will take years for our NHS and economy to recover.
“To divide Scotland with another referendum at this time is the very last thing we need.
“Politicians should not be trying to tear us apart, they should be working to unite us together.”
The Panelbase poll, which was conducted online, questioned 1,020 people between November 5 and 11 whilst YouGov’s figures were also based on fieldwork carried out in early November.
Number 10 pointed to Scottish Secretary Alister Jack comments made last week when he said: “We had a referendum, it was once in a generation and as a democrat I respect the outcome of a referendum.
“We’re delivering on Brexit and we are respecting the outcome of the 2014 referendum on independence.”
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