2nd Scottish independence referendum ‘inevitable,’ says Salmond

© Paul Hackett
A second referendum on Scottish independence is “inevitable,” former First Minister Alex Salmon has said amid fears the union is “hanging by a thread.”

The ex-Scottish National Party (SNP) leader said the government’s failure to live up to the ‘No’ campaign’s promises of further devolution for Scotland were a major factor behind the momentum for a second referendum.

Salmond also cited unease around the upcoming vote on Britain’s membership of the European Union (EU) and continued austerity by the Conservative government.

His comments come as a senior Conservative peer admitted the United Kingdom was “hanging by a thread” due to Tory plans for English votes for English laws (Evel) and increasing nationalism in England.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday, Salmond said the timing of the next referendum was up to the current SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

I think a second independence referendum is inevitable. The question of course is not the inevitability, it is the timing.”

Salmond said there were three issues behind the drive for a second referendum.

One is the refusal to deliver the vow. The vow was about home rule, devo to the max, near-federalism, to quote Gordon Brown. That has not been delivered – as yet, at least – in the Scotland Bill, so that’s an issue,” he told the BBC.

The second issue is the one that’s been cast up quite a lot, and that’s the European issue. If you had a situation, a circumstance where Scotland voted to stay in the European Union in a referendum but was dragged out on the votes of the people of England, then that would be a material change in circumstance.

And the third thing emerging of course comes out from the Budget and the Welfare Bill, which is austerity. Instead of getting devo to the max, we’re getting austerity to the max and that divergent view of what’s right in social terms between Scotland and England is another issue, which is moving things towards another referendum,” he added.

In response to Salmond’s comments, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she is yet to decide whether to include a promise of a second referendum in the SNP’s manifesto for next year’s Scottish Parliament election.

Sturgeon said another vote would be held “one day” and that the timing would be decided by her.

Former Tory Scottish Secretary Lord Forsyth called for a new Act of Union to address the constitutional issues thrown up by the growing divisions between Scotland and Westminster.

He told the Sunday Times: “We probably need a new Act of Union, and to look not just at Scotland but the constituent parts of the UK and the powers that are appropriate to be devolved to them, and the financial framework that best suits that.

Forsyth criticized Conservative plans to introduce English votes for English laws, adding he disliked English nationalism as much as Scottish separatism.

I do actually think the Union is hanging by a thread and I don't like the way English nationalism is being stirred up any more than I like separatism in Scotland.”

A Conservative spokeswoman said in order to govern fairly, devolution must be balanced and include every part of the UK.

As part of our one nation approach, the government has introduced legislation to give Scotland new powers, creating one of the most powerful devolved legislatures in the world. Bills on Wales and Northern Ireland will follow.

It is fair that we balance this by giving English MPs a veto on issues that only affect England. It is this fair settlement that will strengthen the Union,” she added.