Scotland politics

Scottish independence: MacAskill warns against 'headlong rush' to indyref2

Kenny MacAskill Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr MacAskill stood down as an MSP ahead of the Scottish Parliament election in May

Kenny MacAskill has become the latest senior SNP figure to caution against a "headlong rush" into a second Scottish independence referendum.

The former justice secretary said the Brexit vote left too many questions that the SNP still had to answer.

It follows MSP Joan McAlpine saying on Tuesday that Nicola Sturgeon had put a referendum on the back burner.

But former first minister Alex Salmond has predicted a second independence vote will be held in 2018.

Writing in the Herald newspaper, Mr MacAskill stressed that he was still committed to the cause of independence, but argued that Scottish history was "littered with headlong rushes to disaster".

'Glorious defeat'

He added: "As with Highland charges it's not the passion of the participants that's in doubt, but the wisdom of the tactic.

"Scottish success, whether on the battle or sporting field, has come through more cerebral actions, not rushes of blood to the head.

"Glorious defeat would put the dream back catastrophically, even if some enjoyed the journey. Wiser counsel must prevail."

Mr MacAskill said the unanswered questions left by the Brexit vote included: "Would we be in the EU, would there be a hard border and what would the currency be?"

He continued: "None of those can be answered but would be questions being asked. Some clarity on them is needed."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Pro-independence campaigners took to the streets of Glasgow and other Scottish towns and cities at the weekend

A series of pro-independence marches and events were held in towns and cities across Scotland at the weekend to mark the anniversary of the 2014 referendum, which saw voters back remaining in the UK by 55% to 45%.

Mr MacAskill, who stood down as an SNP MSP ahead of May's Holyrood election, said the passions of activists keen for a fresh independence campaign had to be restrained, which he argued would be "frustrating but essential for ultimate success".

He added: "The SNP would be wiser to be working on the answers to critical questions that cost victory in the last referendum. It should also be working in and cherishing the constituencies won in its wake.

"As Mel Gibson shouted to the Scottish ranks in the movie Braveheart: "Hold". It's about timing and tactics."

His comments echo those of former health secretary Alex Neil, who warned against holding an independence referendum in the near future in a recent article for Holyrood magazine.

Opinion polls

Mr Neil argued that an independent Scotland which became a full member of the EU would potentially struggle to achieve an open border with the rest of the UK, which he said would make it particularly difficult to win an independence campaign.

In the immediate aftermath of the UK voting to leave the EU, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said a second referendum of leaving the UK was "highly likely" and revealed that Scottish government officials had started drawing up legislation for a vote.

But a series of opinion polls in recent weeks have suggested a narrow majority of voters still oppose independence, despite Scotland voting by 62% to 38% in favour of remaining in the EU.

Ms Sturgeon has pledged to explore all possible options for protecting Scotland's status in Europe, and last month launched a "new conversation" on independence, which she described as an attempt to "understand in detail how people feel now about Europe, Brexit and independence".

She claimed over the weekend that self-governance was more important than "oil, national wealth and balance sheets".

Opposition parties have urged the first minister to focus on her "day job" of running Scotland, arguing she should be looking to improve public services such as education and the NHS instead of pushing for independence.

They have also suggested that Scotland's £15bn public spending deficit should act as a reality check for those calling for a second referendum.

Responding to Mr MacAskill's comments, Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said uncertainty over whether or not there would be another referendum was hurting Scotland badly.

He added: "People are getting sick of this, and it's time the SNP woke up to that fact."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said senior nationalists were telling Ms Sturgeon on a daily basis that she "has made an error of judgement by pushing so hard for a new separation vote".

Mr Rennie said: "The first minister can bring the uncertainty to an end by simply declaring that another independence referendum is off the table."