SNP leaders are being urged to seize the “opportunity” provided by the latest delay to Brexit by staging a second vote on Scottish independence before the UK quits the European Union.
Chris McEleny, a former candidate for SNP depute leader and a member of the party’s ruling national executive, said it is now time for independence supporters to “press with everything we have” for a second ballot.
With the UK now having until October 31 to complete the Brexit process, he suggested such a vote could be held in September – five years on from the first independence referendum.
Mr McEleny, the SNP leader on Inverclyde Council, said: “With an extension to the end of October, we now have the clarity that people required.
“People in Scotland should be given the opportunity to voice their preference on the future they want for Scotland.
“Before the UK leaves the EU, it is now time to press with everything we have to give people the opportunity to decide if they want Scotland’s future relationship with the EU decided for them or if they want to take that decision into their own hands by deciding that Scotland should become an independent country.
“An independence referendum in September of this year would give us that opportunity.”
SNP leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to set out her position on a possible second independence referendum when there is more “clarity” on Brexit.
But Mr McEleny, who stood against Keith Brown for the depute leader’s post in 2018, said: “For nearly three years now we have been in a state of constant uncertainty due to the gross incompetence of the UK Government and the democratic negligence of the UK Parliament.”
While he said the “case for Scottish independence is not predicated on Brexit”, he argued the current situation – where Scotland faces having to leave the EU despite most of its voters wanting to remain – shows how policies are “imposed on Scotland without a democratic mandate and against the will of people in Scotland”.
Mr McEleny said: “Since 2014 everything has changed. Amongst many promises to convince people that weren’t quite ready for independence, the people of Scotland were categorically told that the best way to protect Scotland’s membership of the EU was to vote to stay part of the UK.
“As part of the UK we are now being dragged out of the EU regardless of what people in Scotland want.”
But Pamela Nash, chief executive of the pro-UK campaign group Scotland in Union, said the First Minister should rule out holding another independence vote.
Ms Nash, a former Labour MP, said: “Regardless of your views on Brexit, this delay means a further period of uncertainty for our economy and further divisions within our society.
“The very last thing that we need is even more constitutional uncertainty and deeper divisions.
“Nicola Sturgeon should take advantage of this Brexit delay to listen to the majority of people in Scotland. She must rule out an unwanted second independence referendum altogether, end the damaging uncertainty for our economy, and seek to bring people back together.”