Published On: Fri, Jan 17th, 2020

SNP MP: Labour leadership contender’s comments on Scottish independence ‘insane’

An SNP MP has branded comments by Labour leadership contender Lisa Nandy ‘insane’, after she said the UK should ‘look to Catalonia’ for lessons on how to challenge Scottish nationalism.

Nandy made the comments in her interview with Andrew Neil earlier this week, triggering outrage from independence supporters. The Spanish civil guard injured hundreds in 2017 when they used force to try to stop a disputed independence referendum in Catalonia.

Speaking to Left Foot Forward, Kenny MacAskill – Scottish justice secretary from 2007-2014 and newly-elected MP – said Nandy’s comments were ‘insulting’ and ‘insane’. [Update: Lisa Nandy’s campaign have clarified Nandy’s comments on Scotland in a piece here]. He also hit out at comments from Jess Phillips that the SNP had ‘no mandate’ for independence.

Mr MacAskill – an author and former lawyer – said that continued rejection of a second Scottish independence referendum meant: “We’re going to have a Catalonia [style] situation in Scotland” – with the potential for widespread civil disobedience.

He argues that Scottish Labour politicians ‘don’t know their history’ – with a strong ‘home rule’ streak running through the party from the beginning.

Labour’s founder Keir Hardy backed home rule for Scotland, while arguably Scotland’s leading trade unionist of the 20th century, Jimmy Reid, went from communist organiser, to Scottish Labour – before backing independence and the SNP.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard recently tried to engage with members on the party’s position on independence – only to have hit proposal for a conference on federalism – including a multi-option referendum on independence – slapped down by the party’s executive.

Striking a chord

He called for the SNP to ‘organise and mobilise the working class’ against the Tories’ rejection of a fresh independence vote. The MP said the Conservatives now rule as an ‘oligarchy’ over Scotland.

While trade unions in Scotland are traditionally opposed to independence, Mr MacAskill believes ‘unions will start to get behind independence’. However, he argued any industrial action over independence would be ‘way down the line’. (Overtly ‘political’ strikes are illegal in the UK).

Signs of a shift are already appearing – the General Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) Grahame Smith said this month that the Scottish National Party’s landslide victory in December’s election made it clear voters wanted a referendum.

Constitutional convention

The SNP justice spokesperson is calling for a constitutional convention ahead of a fresh independence referendum, with MPs, MSPs and councillors on the left coming together in a ‘united popular front’.

“The SNP will have to respect Labour [in such a convention]. We need to put behind the tribalism,” he said.

Next year’s election

2021 sees the next Holyrood election, with the vote likely to be seen as a gauge on support for a second indy ref.

Asked whether the mandate for a second referendum would be based on how many seats the SNP win, Mr MacAskill said: “It has to be based on the issues – not on SNP seats,” given that the Scottish Greens – who currently have six MSPs – support independence.

Scottish Tories

The Scottish Tories are currently holding a leadership election: “Tory scots aren’t even attempting soft cuddly unionism….They’re like the Soviets who said ‘no to the Prague spring’ – the Tories say no to an independence referendum.”

Mr MacAskill compared Tory leadership frontrunner Jackson Carlaw to ‘the man from Moscow’: “London says [do] this, Jackson says ‘OK’.”

“The Tories making next year’s [Holyrood] election a referendum on the constitution is a gift to the SNP,” the SNP MP added.

The SNP are unlikely to want to make their contested record on public services the primary issue in the campaign.

Mr MacAskill had strong words for Johnson’s government rejecting a fresh indy vote:

“If they treat us like sh*t, we’ll fight back.”

Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Folow him on Twitter.

Left Foot Forward

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