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The Scottish National Party (SNP) was thrown into turmoil after a former deputy leader called for a coup to be launched against First Minister Sturgeon before Holyrood’s May elections. Jim Sillars, who served as deputy leader in the Nineties, announced he would not vote for the SNP which he said had its “toxic tentacles stretching into and around civic Scotland”. It comes as Ms Sturgeon faces backlash over her sacking of top SNP MP Joanna Cherry, and an ongoing legal battle with former leader Alex Salmond.
Mr Sillars went on to claim SNP voters now face a similar dilemma to “decent” Republicans in the US when the party was spearheaded by Donald Trump.
The newest episode is just one in a series of infighting the SNP has suffered this year.
Ms Sturgeon will be anxious to quell any discontent as the May election approaches.
She has said that if the SNP wins a majority, she will hold a “legal referendum” on independence.
Nicola Sturgeon: The First Minister’s independence hopes were thrown away by a political commentator
Jim Sillars: The veteran politician (right) called for a coup in the SNP
Currently, support for independence in Scotland sits at just over 50 percent, suggesting that if a referendum was called tomorrow, the country would break away from the UK.
Yet, according to political commentator Sean O’Grady, the situation is not as black and white as it seems.
He notes that Brexit has made Scotland keener for independence than it was in 2014 – when 55 percent of the electorate voted to stay in the UK – as Scotland voted to remain in the EU.
However, writing in The Independent, Mr O’Grady said: “The problem, though, is that Brexit has made it far more difficult for independence to work as a proposition.”
If Scotland wanted its current relationship with England and the rest of Britain to work – free travel, free trade – “then independence makes that impossible”.
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He said that if the UK had stayed in the EU, breaking away from the union would have been an easier task for Scotland, as all parts of Britain would still be integral parts of the EU single market and customs union.
Mr O’Grady wrote: “There would be free movement of people and goods, and completely frictionless trade in services such as banking, and no need for any real border between Scotland and England.”
Now, however, an independent Scotland would be faced with the same obstacles the UK faced in negotiating with the EU, no small task.
This was vital, the commentator said, and will likely lead to Scots not wanting the “hassle” of throwing away what they currently enjoy.
He said: “Scotland can certainly become a nation again, and the 28th member of the EU.
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“But there will be a considerable price to pay to regain sovereignty.
“Indeed, the practical obstacles to a working arrangement may prove practically insuperable.
“The prospect of them might persuade a decisive number of Scottish voters that they cannot face the hassle.”
Scotland becoming the EU’s 28th member could prove a difficult task.
Last month, Ms Sturgeon wrote on the SNP’s website that: “As an independent member of the EU, Scotland would be a partner and a bridge-builder.
“We hope to see you again soon.”
She has since suggested the bloc would welcome Scotland with “open arms”.
Yet, Robert Tombs, the renowned British historian, told Express.co.uk that Scotland might prove too much trouble for the EU.
He said: “It would cost the EU money, the Scots would expect to be subsidised by the EU, and the bloc is getting more and more reluctant to do that.
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“Countries like Spain would oppose the idea too, because it would be an encouragement to the Catalans again.
“I would also guess that the EU would hesitate to do something which would seem really to be a seriously unfriendly act towards a major state like Britain, to actually encourage the breakup of another state.
“Countries in other parts of the world go to war over things like that.
“We wouldn’t, of course, but you would be risking a real crisis of relations if the EU was seen to be trying to encourage the breakup of the UK.”
And even if an independent Scotland was successful in its EU application, many of the reasons for its departing the UK – Democratic control, national self-determination and identity and full political decision making transferred to Holyrood – would soon be mopped up by Brussels.
Paul Embery, a trade unionist and Labour member, said this was one glaring hole in the SNP’s agenda that had yet to be scrutinised.
He told Express.co.uk: “It’s the policy on independence and the EU, they’re completely inconsistent.
“The SNP say they want to be independent from Britain because they think they’ll be better off outside, yet the first thing they’d do is hop back into bed with the Europeans and trade their newly-found sovereignty for membership of the EU club.
SNP coup: Sillars wrote that the SNP leadership needs a ‘sweeping change’
“It’s always struck me as completely bizarre and I don’t think they’re ever probed enough on it.”
Meanwhile, in his attempt to incite a coup in the SNP, Mr Sillars wrote in a blog post: “Yes, time is short, but it has not run out.
“There needs to be a revolt and a change in leadership, a real sweeping change.
“The first action falls upon the NEC [the SNP’s ruling body] to demand and create the change.”