The SNP’s divisions have been laid bare in recent years by the ongoing row between supporters of Nicola Sturgeon and her predecessor Alex Salmond. The inquiry into the handling of complaints made against Mr Salmond in 2018 threatens to derail the SNP’s momentum in securing more support for independence. Over 20 consecutive polls have found support for Scottish secession, as Ms Sturgeon and her colleagues look set for a comfortable win in May’s Holyrood elections. Despite the SNP’s success, Jim Sillars claimed Ms Sturgeon has benefited from luck.
The former deputy leader of the party and prominent independence campaigner has been critical of the First Minister.
He told The Times last month that “were we in normal times” Ms Sturgeon “would already be toast”.
He appeared to be alluding to the pandemic, in which many Scots have praised Ms Sturgeon’s leadership despite criticism over Holyrood’s vaccine rollout.
Mr Sillars also commented on independence, dismissing the idea that she is the only person who can deliver it.
He added that “those who tie independence to her fate have swallowed the ‘great leader’ fallacy”.
Last week, Mr Sillars called for a “revolt” against the leadership in Scotland and said he could not vote for the SNP “when the rot at the centre is unmistakable”.
He warned “time was short” for a change of leadership, adding: “There needs to be a revolt and a change in leadership, a real sweeping change.”
He further claimed the party had “toxic tentacles stretching into and around civic Scotland”.
Mr Sillars also condemned Joanna Cherry’s sacking from the Westminster shadow cabinet.
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However, she also said that a perceived mandate could offer some encouragement nonetheless.
Prof McHarg added: “The reason a mandate is important though is because in 2011, when the SNP last won an overall majority, David Cameron’s agreement to facilitate a referendum at that point had a mandate.
“So the SNP will make it absolutely abundantly clear in their manifesto next year that they want a second referendum.
“If the SNP then gets an overall majority next May, then it will be difficult to dispute that mandate, but that’s a political argument.
“It doesn’t affect the legal argument, a mandate on its own can’t impact the powers of a devolved legislature.”