Jim Sillars claimed the Scottish First Minister wasted years in charge of the SNP and there was “no chance” of IndyRef2 taking place in 2023. The First Minister has repeatedly claimed she will hold a referendum before the end of 2023 or when the pandemic allows, despite powers over the constitution being reserved to Westminster.
The UK Government has refused to engage with the Scottish Government on the issue, stating this is not the time for a vote.
But Mr Sillars stressed a Westminster General Election would be “more likely” in 2023 which would be the SNP’s opportunity to ask for a second vote.
Explaining his thinking, the former Glasgow Govan MP said: “If paragraph one of the SNP manifesto is ‘We are asking you to vote for us in order to demand a Section 30 to hold a referendum’, and they win the election, then it becomes impossible for any government in Westminster to refuse it.”
Mr Sillars, who served under Alex Salmond in the 1990s also said improvements to the Nats’ economic arguments for separation needed to be made.
He added: “We need a new economic model, and we’ve got to work on that – and until we’ve worked on that and produced that, we’re in no position to win a referendum.”
Mr Sillars was speaking as his new autobiography, A Difference Of Opinion: My Political Journey was released yesterday.
The SNP veteran slated the Scottish First Minister, claiming she had “intellectually hollowed out the SNP” through a cult of personality along with former SNP leader Alex Salmond.
He said: “Nicola is exactly the same as Alex with less talent than he had, and I think between the two of them they have intellectually hollowed out the SNP as a membership party.
Edinburgh East MP Tommy Sheppard, who currently serves as the party’s Cabinet Office spokesperson, will move to a new role with responsibility for the constitution and the devolved administrations.
Stewart Hosie, who served as the SNP’s Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, will also assume a wider role in the party’s pledge for separation.
An SNP spokesman said: “While the SNP is focused on winning independence by delivering the referendum for which we received a cast-iron democratic mandate in May, Jim Sillars has called for it to be “deprioritised”.”