The “incompetence” of the UK Government in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic will leave the road to Scottish independence open, a senior SNP politician has said.
Kenny MacAskill, a former Holyrood justice secretary who is now an MP, claimed Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been shown to be “utterly hapless”.
He contrasted this with what he said was a “virtually flawless” performance of Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Ms Sturgeon has sought to keep party politics out of her handling of the pandemic, but Mr MacAskill argued the virus outbreak could further the cause of independence.
And fellow SNP MP Joanna Cherry declared: “I am working towards one goal alone and that is the goal of independence which most of our movement shares.”
It comes amid differences in the handling of Covid-19 north and south of the border, with Mr Johnson easing restrictions in England and ditching the core “stay at home” message – which has remained in place in Scotland.
Mr MacAskill suggested the current crisis could give the SNP the opportunity to pursue a “more radical agenda that’s wanted by the wider membership”.
He claimed as Scots emerge from the epidemic, they will be looking for a “better way” forward than as part of the UK.
Criticising the PM, Mr MacAskill said: “A man who cannot even safely look after his own country can’t restrict the forward march of another. The road to independence is open.”
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has argued Scotland has benefited from the “financial strength” of the UK Treasury during the Covid-19 crisis.
He said: “We’re a very powerful economic machine in the UK and I know it is a bit of a unionist message, and I am not shying away from that, I am not embarrassed to say it.
“But because Scotland is part of the United Kingdom we have benefited enormously from that financial strength of the Treasury.”
But Mr MacAskill argued the “hope, if not expectation, of leading unionists was that the Bank of England’s unlimited printing of money would show the bounty of being British and the utter dependency of Scotland” had not been the case.
He said: “Instead more and more it’s showing up the incompetence of the UK Government and that actually Scotland can most certainly do better.
“Folk are deciding that there’s got to be a better way and there lies the difficulty for the union.
“With the Tories firmly in charge there’s little sign of change or even moderation. It’s full on for Brexit and ever closer links with the USA.
“The demands that there has to be a better way, and indeed a diverging way, from the UK path are only going to increase.”
Ms Cherry said while the Scottish Government must “maintain its entire focus on the Covid crisis”, there is nothing to stop the SNP “party machine facilitating debate on policy and strategy, except perhaps that meetings, assemblies and conference are not safe at present”.
Writing in the National newspaper, she said she has contacted the SNP’s national secretary “suggesting that the party take these debates online”.
However Pamela Nash, chief executive of the pro-UK campaign group Scotland in Union, said most Scots would “be in despair at the behaviour by these senior SNP politicians”.
She added: “They should be completely focused on the needs of their constituents during this public health emergency, but instead are using it as an opportunity to talk up their campaign to leave the UK.
“These politicians may have ‘one goal’ of dividing the people of Scotland, but it would be far better if they were working with colleagues across the political spectrum to ensure that the country comes through this crisis together.”
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