The SNP’s internal divisions have been laid bare this month as two major figures in the party have been sacked. Front bench MP Neale Hanvey has been removed as the party’s Westminster vaccine spokesman after a row with Kirsty Blackman. Mr Hanvey had backed a campaign to sue his colleague after a disagreement over transgender rights. He had been in the role since last week, when an SNP reshuffle led to the sacking of another prominent figure – Joanna Cherry.
The regular critic of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said last week: “Westminster is increasingly irrelevant to Scotland’s constitutional future and the SNP would do well to radically rethink our strategy.”
She had also clashed with Ms Blackman over the issue of transgender rights.
As the party also endures a split regarding former leader Alex Salmond, the delivery of a second independence referendum appears to have led to frustration.
Ms Sturgeon and co are trying to secure the power to hold a vote via a section 30 order – currently, only Westminster has the powers to call a referendum on independence.
Some in the SNP have grown impatient as Ms Sturgeon still hasn’t achieved her main objective of IndyRef2.
This came to light in January last year, as the UK prepared to leave the EU on Brexit day.
Some SNP figures wanted Ms Sturgeon to call a “wildcat” referendum without the approval of Westminster, but the First Minister effectively ruled such a move out because it “might actually set us back” if the courts declare it illegal.
But this stance led to criticism from SNP figures.
Independence supporters accused Ms Sturgeon of a “colossal, criminal dereliction of duty”, with one pro-independence political blog describing her promise of a legal referendum in 2021 as a “bare-faced lie”.
SNP MP Angus MacNeil claimed it was “hard to fathom” the First Minister’s plan while insisting that a consultative referendum “should be pursued without delay”.
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Pro-independence campaigner Christopher McEleny said that a “much more radial approach” was needed, adding: “What’s stopping us asking the Lord Advocate right now if he thinks the Scottish Parliament has the legal competence to hold an advisory referendum on Scottish independence?”
Ms Sturgeon had said: “To achieve independence, a referendum must be legal and legitimate. That is a simple fact.
“And the best way to achieve that, even though it may not be ideal, is to reach agreement with the UK Government on a transfer of power to the Scottish Parliament, just as we did for 2014.”
Support for independence has surged in recent months, with 20 consecutive polls putting a Yes vote ahead.
Public law expert Professor Aileen McHarg told Express.co.uk that a “wildcat” referendum would likely be boycotted, echoing Ms Sturgeon.
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She said last year: “Would there be a unionist boycott? I think this is quite likely.
“There are a couple of precedents that could support that – in 1973 there was a border poll in Northern Ireland on reunification.
“That was boycotted by unionists in Northern Ireland, and there is also the Catalonian referendum in 2017 which was boycotted by pro-Spanish voters.
“How significant that becomes is a question of how high support for independence is. If it is floating at just around 50 percent then a unionist boycott is a significant undermining of its legitimacy.
“If however, support for independence is as high as 75 percent, then a boycott would be much less significant.”