SNP U-turn? Ian Blackford retreats on independence demands after furious national backlash

SNP U-turn? Ian Blackford retreats on independence demands after furious national backlash

Ian Blackford admitted to BBC Newsnight that the SNP will not campaign for independence in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The admission marks a dramatic U-turn from less than a week ago when Mr Blackford said the SNP was still “fully committed” to seeking a second independence referendum this year. This comes after the Scottish government itself confirmed it was no longer planning to hold an independence referendum this year.

Constitution Secretary Mike Russell said the plans had been “paused” due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking on Newsnight, the SNP’s Westminster leader applauded Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s intervention to help save businesses and employees during the crisis.

BBC Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark said: “Does this herald, if not formally, a government of national unity?

“You will no longer campaign for independence for example? It has taken the backseat because of coronavirus, correct?”

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Mr Blackford responded: “This is the biggest fight that any of us have ever faced.

“There is an obligation for all of us to work together. We will work collectively.

“We must protect our citizens from this virus and we must have an economy fit for purpose when we come out the backend of this.”

However, last Sunday, Mr Blackford had insisted the SNP was still planning to break away from the rest of the UK this year.

Following Mike Russell’s announcement this week, Scottish Conservative shadow constitution secretary Murdo Fraser said putting the referendum preparations on hold was welcome news and would “come as a relief to workers and businesses alike”.

Mr Russell said the move would allow the government to focus all of its resources on the health crisis.

In a letter to the UK government, he said: “It follows from this that a referendum will not be held this year.”

The senior SNP figure went on to “strongly suggest” that the UK government takes similar action and pause the Brexit process for at least six months.

Published at Sat, 21 Mar 2020 11:15:00 +0000