The SNP led by Nicola Sturgeon have reignited the debate around Scottish independence which culminated in a defeat for the Yes campaign in 2014. But after the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016 – despite most in Scotland opting for Remain – Ms Sturgeon believes she has a mandate to take Scotland into the bloc via independence. Many in the SNP support this, but one prominent critic of the Scottish First Minister called for her to resign in 2017. The calls came from Jim Sillars – a eurosceptic in the SNP who has regularly criticised his party leader. He said in 2017 that he would like Nicola Sturgeon to step down but claimed the party was stuck with her because there was no candidate with the necessary “intellectual capability” to replace her.
His attack on the party leadership followed his ambush at an SNP conference, when he claimed Ms Sturgeon was “out of her depth” and had made a “monumental misjudgement” when she demanded a new independence vote by the spring of 2019.
Mr Sillars added: “We lost 21 seats at Westminster because the day after the (EU) referendum she went helter skelter for a second referendum which everyone knew we would lose and most people didn’t want.
“I am for a second independence referendum, but you cannot have one sensibly until you know exactly what the Brexit deal is in detail, and then take time to assess it and then take time to formulate an argument for independence.
Nicola Sturgeon news: Jim Sillar is a prominent critic of Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon news: Sturgeon campaigned for Yes in 2014 along with Mr Sillar (right)
“We lost in 2014 and there are reasons why we lost. There has been no post mortem inside the Yes movement…and until we do that and until we engage in a major educational exercise with the Scottish population we will lose the second referendum.
“At the moment we are still stuck at around 46 percent, why have we not moved up to around about 60? That is the task that faces the independence movement at the present time and we are nowhere near even at the starting gate.”
Since the historic defeat for the Yes campaign, Brexit has provoked Ms Sturgeon to accelerate her push for independence.
The idea of an independent Scotland joining the EU has divided some, but support for the idea within the bloc appears to have grown since 2016, when Ms Sturgeon’s pitch to the EU was criticised.
Nicola Sturgeon news: In 2016 she pitched her entry plan to the EU
Former President of the European Council – Donald Tusk – said “empathy” and “enthusiasm” for the idea of Scottish entry had grown last year.
Mr Sillars told Express.co.uk this month that the SNP leader would be making her “stupidest” move if she tried to rejoin the bloc.
Brussels expert Anthony Salamone wrote a report published this year that claimed Scotland could join within five years of becoming an independent country.
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Nicola Sturgeon news: Sturgeon has pushed for indyref2
Nicola Sturgeon news: The Yes campaign was defeated in 2014
It explains: “Scotland was previously part of the European Union for nearly five decades.
“On that basis alone, the Scottish economy is manifestly capable of forming part of the Union economy and responding sufficiently to its associated demands and forces.
“The Republic will therefore be in an extremely strong position to satisfy the economic criteria of the Copenhagen criteria.”
But it also adds any membership to the EU is likely to spark a border between England and Scotland.
Mr Salamone says it would be “unfortunate” but also claims it would be “manageable”.