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Alex Salmond makes U-turn over 'once in a generation' Scottish independence referendum

Former SNP leader says second vote is coming 'much faster' than he'd thought

Chris Green
Monday 14 September 2015 15:55 BST
Alex Salmond said his earlier view had been 'overtaken by events'
Alex Salmond said his earlier view had been 'overtaken by events' (Getty Images)

He famously described last year’s referendum on Scottish independence as a “once in a generation” event. But Alex Salmond has now changed his mind, arguing that the country is heading for another one “much faster” than he originally anticipated.

The former SNP leader said his earlier view had been “overtaken by events”, citing his party’s surge at the general election and the continued policies of austerity being imposed by the Conservative Government. A second referendum is now “much closer”, he added.

Mr Salmond’s U-turn came a day after Nicola Sturgeon, his successor as leader of the SNP, announced that she would lay out a timescale for another vote on Scotland’s future in the party’s manifesto for next year’s Holyrood elections. Another referendum could take place within five years, she suggested.

“For many years I had assumed that a constitutional referendum in Scotland was a once-in-a-political-generation event, citing the 18-year period between the two devolution polls of 1979 and 1997 and expressed that opinion often enough,” Mr Salmond wrote in his column for The Courier newspaper. “However, that view is being overtaken by events.”

He added that three key factors had contributed to his change of heart: the Government’s watering down of the range of new powers set to be devolved to Scotland; the SNP’s dramatic victory over Labour at the general election; and the policy of “austerity to the max” being pursued by the Tory Government.

“All of these influences are bringing another referendum much closer and much faster,” he wrote. “That much is now known. The real issue for this now energised and politicised nation is how we handle that debate and mould our future.”

A spokesperson for the SNP said the “final decision” on whether there was another referendum would lie with the people of Scotland, who could make an informed decision based on the pledges laid out in its manifesto. Current polls suggest the nationalist party is on course for a landslide victory at the Holyrood election next May.

Opposition parties criticised Mr Salmond’s talk of another referendum. Ian Murray, Labour’s shadow Scotland Secretary, accused the SNP of being “stuck in the past” and “looking for excuses to rerun the arguments of last year”, while Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said it had “gone back on its promise” to respect the result. “Scots don’t want to go back to another divisive referendum, they want to crack on with their life,” she added.

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