A leading SNP MP has called on the party’s leadership to drop calls for a second European referendum and instead put the case for a fresh vote on Scottish independence to the “fore”.
Angus MacNeil made the plea in the wake of former first minister Alex Salmond urging Nicola Sturgeon to put an end to the “uncivil war” within the SNP and focus on making the case for leaving the UK.
Mr Salmond told his successor that with Theresa May struggling to get her Brexit plans through the House of Commons, there is “not likely to be a better time to force the issue” of independence.
Mr MacNeil, who has represented the Western Isles since 2005, retweeted the findings of a poll which showed the majority of Britons are opposed to a second Brexit referendum – something Ms Sturgeon and the SNP leadership have been calling for.
A Sky News data national poll indicated 44% of people think there should be another vote on leaving the European Union, with 56% against this.
Mr MacNeil tweeted: “Oh well @theSNP you tried but #EuroRef2 not wanted … So now it is the referendum with the mandate #Indyref2 to come to fore… Change in media strategy now?”
The SNP won the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections on a manifesto that explicitly stated there should be a fresh vote on independence if there was a material change in circumstances from the 2014 referendum – making clear this should be the case if Scotland was removed from the EU against its people’s wishes.
Ms Sturgeon has already pledged she will make her views known on the possible timing of a second independence referendum in a “matter of weeks”.
However, the First Minister is facing questions in the wake of Mr Salmond’s legal victory against the Scottish Government, after the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled its handling of sexual misconduct allegations against the former SNP leader to be “unlawful”.
The allegations – which are strenuously denied by Mr Salmond – have caused a split within the party which he led for 20 years.
The former first minister insisted his supporters were “not getting involved in an internal SNP spat” – telling the Sunday National: “This ‘uncivil war’ stops now.”
He stated: “Nicola should be concentrating all her energies on the independence agenda where we will never have better circumstances.
“As far as I am concerned Westminster’s Brexit difficulty should be Scotland’s opportunity.”
Ms Sturgeon made clear to MSPs at Holyrood that she believes support for independence is growing “with every day that passes”.
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, she said: “I think it is essential, given the catastrophe that Scotland faces – to our economy, to our society, to living standards, to prospects for the next generation, to our reputation in the world – that the option of independence must be open to people in Scotland. ”
An SNP spokesman said: “The SNP believes that independence for Scotland is the best way to protect our interests and to see our democratic decisions respected.
“Brexit has brought the failure of the current UK system into sharp focus, with Westminster’s shambolic handling of the current situation making the case for independence stronger by the day.
“Of course, in 2016 Scotland voted by a clear majority to stay in the EU. We continue to fight to protect that status and for the jobs, economic benefits and better living standards that being part of the EU gives us. If there’s to be another vote which allow us to remain in Europe, then we should back that opportunity.”