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Ian Blackford hints SNP would delay independence vote over Ukraine crisis

Ukrainians crowd under a destroyed bridge as they try to flee crossing the Irpin river in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine. AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti.
Ukrainians crowd under a destroyed bridge as they try to flee crossing the Irpin river in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine. AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti.

The SNP could delay a second independence vote until after 2023 due to the Ukraine crisis, according to the party’s Westminster chief.

Ian Blackford said a referendum should be held in a “timely manner” and said the SNP must be “mindful of where we are” following Russia’s invasion.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said last month preparatory work had begun to hold a fresh ballot on independence after her success in the 2021 Holyrood election.

Mr Blackford also indicated that he believes Boris Johnson should remain in power while the war is ongoing despite previous demands for him to quit over the partygate scandal.

‘We have got to be respectful’

He said: “We have got to be respectful of the responsibilities that we have in the short term, but I’m also respectful to the principle that we have a mandate for an independence referendum.

“I want that referendum to take place in a timely manner. I want us to be able to execute the mandate that we have.

“To those that are expressing a desire for us to get on with our job, of course, we will do so, but we have to be mindful of where we are.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

On calls for the prime minister to quit, Mr Blackford said: “There’s a time and a place, and there are circumstances.

“We all have to be in recognition of the place we are in and the responsibilities that we have.

“I will not change my position, what I believe fundamentally the prime minister should do, but we have to deal with the here and now.”

Ian Blackford.
Ian Blackford.

Mr Blackford, in a wide-ranging interview with the PA news agency, restated the official SNP line that the queen would remain head of state in the event of independence.

That was the policy before 2014 but some in the SNP want it settled in a future referendum on monarchy.

When asked about the prospect of a vote on royalty, Mr Blackford said: “The Queen will remain head of state in an independent Scotland.”

He also insisted Vladimir Putin’s threats he could use nuclear weapons against rival nations showed why Trident must be removed.

He said: “The idea that having nuclear weapons provides a deterrence that removes that threat is far-fetched, to say the least.”

But he added: “The SNP Scottish government is very clear that an independent Scotland, amongst other things, would seek to be a member of Nato.

“We would be alongside our friends or partners in the Western world, and we would want to make sure that we’re taking our responsibilities for defence and security just as any other independent country does.”

Earlier this week Nicola Sturgeon insisted there was “no connection” between the Ukraine war and the campaign for Scottish independence.

Ex-SNP minister Mike Russell was slammed for likening the prospect of Ukraine being ruled by Russia with Scotland staying in the UK as a “result of an eight-year-old referendum”.

Scottish Tory shadow constitution secretary Donald Cameron said: “Instead of deliberating on the timing of their proposed referendum, the SNP should be focusing their efforts on supporting the humanitarian effort in Ukraine, and domestically, concentrating on our recovery from the pandemic.”

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