Scotland politics

Ex-SNP leader Gordon Wilson says Yes Scotland should be resurrected

Yes2 sticker Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Yes Scotland organisation was a key part of the last Scottish independence referendum

Yes Scotland should be resurrected immediately to build support ahead of any second independence referendum, a former SNP leader has said.

Gordon Wilson said the move would allow the campaign group to help bring support for independence up to 60%.

But he said he was "sceptical of the chances of victory in a premature second attempt".

Nicola Sturgeon believed a second vote on independence was "highly likely" in the wake of the Brexit vote.

The first minister said on Sunday she would consider calling a referendum if the UK government triggered formal Brexit negotiations without a satisfactory UK-wide approach being established, but insisted she believed it was possible for Scotland to be a member of both the UK and EU.

'UK approach'

Ms Sturgeon has instructed Scottish government officials to draft legislation for Holyrood in preparation for a second vote, while the SNP is to undertake a new drive for independence this summer.

Brexit Secretary David Davis has suggested Article 50 - which fires the starting gun on the two-year negotiating period to leave the EU - would be triggered "early next year".

But the UK's new prime minister, Theresa May, said she wanted the Scottish government to be "fully involved" in the Brexit discussions, and that the article would not be triggered until "we have a UK approach and objectives for negotiation".

Yes Scotland was the official pro-independence campaign ahead of the independence referendum in 2014, which saw Scotland vote in favour of remaining in the UK by 55% to 45%.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Gordon Wilson led the SNP for 11 years

Mr Wilson, who led the SNP from 1979 until 1990, called on the party to consult with the various Yes groups "with a view to reviving a Yes Scotland campaigning organisation."

He said Yes Scotland would then "mastermind the steps to bring support for independence up to 60% and to coerce the new London government to concede a fresh independence referendum as a last resort should the negotiations to deliver access to the European single market break down".

Mr Wilson added: "The formation of Yes Scotland will remove a large part of the burden from the SNP government and permit it to concentrate on the negotiations.

"It will also demonstrate to London that a second referendum is on the cards if it proves obdurate and puts barriers in the way of Scotland securing access to the single market."

Mr Wilson said the pro-independence movement needed a "stronger readiness base" than it had ahead of the first referendum campaign.

'Critical level'

He said: "It is no secret that I am sceptical of the chances of victory in a premature second attempt. But the position is incredibly dynamic.

"Support for independence in the aftermath of the EU referendum has risen to 55% with many former unionists switching to independence to safeguard our country's position in the European Union.

"While still not at the critical level of 60% that would guarantee victory, independence could be within reach."

An SNP spokeswoman said many people who voted against independence in 2014 were now reconsidering their position in light of the EU vote, which saw Scotland vote to remain while the UK as a whole voted to leave.

She added: "The SNP government is currently exploring every possible option to protect Scotland's EU relationship - but if it becomes clear that the only way to do that is by becoming an independent member, then that option must be on the table.

"That is why the necessary legislation is being prepared to enable a referendum to take place if and when parliament so decides."