Scottish independence is the way ahead, according to a former Liberal Democrat MP who today revealed he had decided to break with his party’s line and vote Yes.
John Barrett, who represented Edinburgh West, made clear he was “no fan” of the SNP and vowed to remain a Lib Dem, but he said independence offered Scotland an opportunity for change which would be “forever lost with a No vote”.
Mr Barrett is the first serving or former parliamentarian among the Scottish Lib Dems to break ranks on the issue.
He insisted he was not going to become the leader of a faction in the party, but said he believed there were other Lib Dems who shared his views.
He said: “The Lib Dem line has always been we support a federal UK, but that’s not on the ballot paper. The leadership decided to join up with Better Together. But I have decided the next best option is to vote Yes on September 18.”
Mr Barrett, who was MP from 2001 until standing down in 2010, has served on both the Scottish and UK executive committees of the party and he is still president of Edinburgh West Lib Dems and the Scottish Liberal Club.
He said he had been undecided for some time on how to vote in the referendum, but had made up his mind over the past few weeks.
“I still think there are risks, whichever way it goes,” he said. “And I don’t think either side has been 100 per cent honest. They are playing the political game, making extravagant claims. They’ve both been over-egging the pudding. I think the public deserves better.”
He admitted he was not convinced a majority of voters would back Yes. He said: “I fear they won’t have the nerve to go for independence. I think the general public is cautious.”
But writing in the Evening News today, he said: “How often do we get the chance to start afresh? A Yes vote may still be the unlikely result, but it will give us what we need – the opportunity to deliver the change that would be forever lost with a No vote.”
In March this year, former Scottish Lib Dem chief executive Andy Myles announced he would vote Yes, saying only independence could bring power closer to the people in Scotland. And Denis Robertson Sullivan, a former treasurer of the Scottish party, has also declared for independence.
Mr Barrett said activists uneasy about the official Lib Dem support for a No vote had largely stayed quiet. But he said: “There will be others in the party who will have the same view as me.”
Senior figures from Labour have also come out for Yes, including Edinburgh’s first female Lord Provost, Eleanor McLaughlin, and Edinburgh TUC secretary Des Loughney, a former Lothian councillor.