POLICIES being pursued by “the most right-wing Conservative government in history” could constitute a mandate for a fresh vote on independence, one of the frontrunners to become SNP deputy leader said today.
Edinburgh East MP Tommy Sheppard said Brexit – and Scotland’s vote to remain in the EU – was not the only “material change” which the party might cite to justify a second referendum.
The SNP manifesto for the Holyrood elections in May said the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold a new vote on independence if there was “a significant and material change” in circumstances since 2014, and specifically mentioned “Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will”. But despite the dramatically different EU referendum results north and south of the border, polls show no major surge in support for independence.
Mr Sheppard, who is seen as the main challenger to favourite Angus Robertson in the deputy leadership contest, said: “The current mandate we have is pretty much tied up with Brexit.
“But there could be other material circumstances – such as the most right-wing Conservative government in history.”
He said polling suggested SNP supporters had split more or less in line with the general population on the EU, meaning about a third had voted Leave.
“That means we need to be mindful of that and mindful of the extent to which we link the two issues together,” he said.
“The dilemma we have is the current mandate does link the two together – although a discussion is emerging about the extent to which it does if there are a lot of changes as well.”
Mr Sheppard continued: “In industrial relations, you talk about gross misconduct – and gross misconduct can be achieved by a series of minor misconducts. So it may well be the cumulative effect of a series of changes constitutes a material change – such as the government tearing up the welfare state consensus.
“I was away for a week during the Tory party conference and when I got back we seemed to have a new government and a new policy framework – but it has no mandate, it was not elected on that basis.
“Theresa May seems to be doing her best Nigel Farage impersonation.
“It’s playing to the gallery of bigots and xenophobes. Presumably they’ve had some polling that shows it’s to their advantage but it’s sickening that they choose to trawl for support in that way and I’m glad that’s no part of the political discourse in Scotland across the spectrum.”
Voting in the deputy leadership contest ends tomorrow and the result will be announced at the start of the SNP conference in Glasgow on Thursday.