Home News Sturgeon’s new appointment shows FM ‘not serious about Indyref2’— ‘Reeks of desperation’

Sturgeon’s new appointment shows FM ‘not serious about Indyref2’— ‘Reeks of desperation’

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Scotland’s First Minister Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly vowed to get the public back to the ballot box for a second referendum on Scottish independence (Indyref2) just seven years after the first vote on the matter. But Ms Sturgeon needs Downing Street to hand her the constitutional powers to make it a legally-binding referendum — and No.10 has so far refused to do so. As support for her party, the SNP (Scottish National Party) and the independence movement wanes, the First Minister is under pressure to fulfil her promises and get Indyref2 in motion soon.

The SNP set up an independence taskforce in January — but just months after it was established, Ms Sturgeon has faced criticism for the individual she chose to head up this new unit.

In June, Ms Sturgeon tweeted: “Delighted that @theSNP National Executive Committee has approved my nomination of Mike Russell @Ferolean as political director of the HQ independence unit.

“He will oversee the development of the party’s independence campaign, as we look ahead to #indyref2 later in this Parliament.”

However, in a piece of scathing criticism, writer John Ferry claimed that Ms Sturgeon’s announcement “reeked of desperation”.

He continued: “The appointment of Russell is not so much a sign of progress for the Nationalists as confirmation that their project to break up the UK has stalled.”

Sturgeon’s new appointment shows FM ‘not serious about Indyref2’— 'Reeks of desperation'

Sturgeon’s new appointment shows FM ‘not serious about Indyref2’— ‘Reeks of desperation’ (Image: Getty)

Sturgeon appointed Russell to head up the independence unit

Sturgeon appointed Russell to head up the independence unit (Image: Getty)

Mr Russell is also the President of the SNP and once served under Ms Sturgeon as the Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Europe and External affairs.

Mr Ferry said: “His appointment shows how Sturgeon relies on a small inner circle of loyal colleagues to hold the party and the independence movement together.

“It also signals her strategy for the next few years: placate impatient supporters with the appearance of action but kick the independence can down the road for as long as possible.”

Mr Russell’s predecessor, Marco Biagi, a former Scottish Government minister is thought to have described the role as the “worst job ever” and resigned after just a few months in the position.

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Russell was criticised by Ferry for his approach to economic arguments for independence

Russell was criticised by Ferry for his approach to economic arguments for independence (Image: Getty)

Mr Ferry also claimed that the new appointment will raise serious questions for the First Minister.

He asked: “Is Sturgeon serious about another Indyref? SNP supporters must have their doubts.”

The writer went on to pull apart Mr Russell’s history on dealing with economic strategy — an area the independence movement have struggled to clarify when outlining their vision of a separate Scotland to voters.

Mr Russell scrutinised a London School of Economics (LSE) report last February which found that the costs of independence to the Scottish economy will be two or even three times greater than the costs of Brexit.

He said he had “reservations” about such a claim, because the research “assumes that if Scotland were to become independent, we would not change a single policy, we would not use a single lever on the economy”.

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The SNP have to rely on the Scottish Greens in Holyrood

The SNP have to rely on the Scottish Greens in Holyrood (Image: Express)

Independence could end up being costly for Scotland

Independence could end up being costly for Scotland (Image: Express)

However, the SNP actually praised research from the same university back in 2016, which looked at the economic impacts of Brexit, making Mr Russell’s criticism inconsistent.

Mr Ferry continued: “We can conclude from Russell’s appointment that Nicola Sturgeon is certainly not serious about producing a credible economic case for secession, and probably not serious about another referendum this side of the next general election.”

The economic debate could end up being the crucial turning point in the ongoing discussion around independence.

The arguments for remaining in the UK are predominantly economic, and are focusing on the fact that the Union provides a larger market for Scottish goods.

There are also concerns that an independent Scotland would not be able to sustain its level of public spending without raising taxes and questions hanging over its future currency.

Indyref2 would make Brexit look like ‘walk in park’ says MSP

Despite Mr Ferry’s claim that Ms Sturgeon is only delaying the pursuit of Indyref2, others argue that the First Minister cannot back out of her renewed promises for independence now after May’s Holyrood election.

While the SNP did fall one seat short of a majority in the Scottish Parliament, they will be able to lean on the eight seats the pro-independence Scottish Greens won earlier this year to get their Indyref2 motions through Holyrood.

As political scientist Sir John Curtice told Euronews: “There’s no way Nicola Sturgeon can escape it.

“[The election] created a majority that is overwhelmingly in favour of independence and people who are in favour of independence are overwhelmingly in favour of holding a referendum.

“So there is no way she can avoid pursuing the issue.”

Ms Sturgeon has so far maintained that she will not be pursuing independence until the urgency of the pandemic subsides — but some believe this could be as early as 2022.

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