Scotland’s economic situation is “worse” than it was in 2014 and will make winning a second referendum on independence more difficult for the Yes side, a former SNP cabinet secretary has said.
Kenny MacAskill, who served as Justice Secretary under Alex Salmond for seven years, said Scotland’s current circumstances mean the odds of achieving independence are “less favourable” than last time around.
The circumstances for a vote are both less favourable and more complicated than when the first referendum was held in 2014Kenny MacAskill
Writing in The Scotsman’s sister paper i, the former SNP MSP added that the unresolved issue of what currency an independent Scotland might use “hangs like a dark cloud” over those who believe it would be better off outside the UK.
Mr MacAskill, who stood down as an MSP last year after serving in the Scottish Parliament since it opened in 1999, said the Brexit vote had given Nicola Sturgeon a mandate to call another referendum – but had also raised a series of fresh barriers to independence.
The threat of customs posts on the border with England was “a worry for ordinary people” in Scotland, he said, adding that many Yes supporters had voted for the UK to leave the EU and may be wary of backing independence if it meant handing powers back to Brussels.
“Its arguable that the circumstances for a vote are both less favourable and more complicated than when the first referendum was held in 2014,” he wrote.
“The economic situation is if anything worse. Though the oil price has risen in the last few weeks, the North Sea has been hit hard. As a consequence, so has economic confidence and not just in the North East. All the evidence is that it was those key economic questions that cost the Yes campaign victory – and yet they remain.”
Ms Sturgeon has previously said that a re-run of 2014’s referendum is “highly likely” in the wake of the Brexit vote, which resulted in Scotland facing EU withdrawal despite 62 per cent of the nation’s population voting to remain. However, opinion polls have suggested that a majority of Scots still favour remaining part of the UK.
Yesterday the First Minister ruled out holding another referendum this year, but insisted she would call one if Scotland was faced with a hard Brexit outside the EU single market.
Responding to Mr MacAskill’s comments, a spokesman for the SNP said it was “absolutely right” for the party to keep the option of independence “firmly on the table”.
“Scotland faces the prospect of being dragged out of the EU against our will, with Theresa May seemingly determined to pursue a Tory hard Brexit – which threatens to be catastrophic for Scottish jobs and our economy – putting the interests of her party ahead of the interests of the country,” he added.
Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins said: “Kenny MacAskill is quite right in saying a second vote would be less likely to succeed than the original.
“People are utterly fed-up of constitutional wrangling, and simply want the SNP to take this off the table altogether.
“Nicola Sturgeon knows fine well she’d lose a second separation vote if it was held tomorrow, which is why she’s appeared to go cold on the subject.
“Voters in Scotland made their decision in 2014, and the SNP should stick to its word and ensure that was a once in a generation referendum.”
Scottish Labour’s Europe spokesman Lewis Macdonald added: “Kenny MacAskill’s comments on independence sum up the SNP – nationalists don’t question whether or not independence would be good for Scotland, all they care about is the politics of how to win a referendum.”
• This piece originally appeared in i