Nicola Sturgeon has warned she will lose Indyref2 if it means returning to the EU

NICOLA Sturgeon will lose an independence referendum if she attaches a yes vote to Scotland’s return to the European Union, a former SNP cabinet secretary has warned.

Alex Neil said if the Prime Minister wanted to win she would have to abandon a policy of combining the two issues in a ‘double referendum’.

The former health secretary said: “Confusing the decision on independence with the question of EU membership would undermine IndyRef2’s chances of success, just as the monetary question did in the referendum on the independence of 2014.”

Mr Neil makes his comments in an article for part one of Scotland’s Future, the Herald’s year-long series on the evolving constitutional debate and the issues facing devolved services.

The only SNP MSP to publicly back Brexit, Mr Neil also said Ms Sturgeon’s policies would be disastrous for Scotland if voters back independence regardless.

He said Brussels would ruthlessly exploit Ms Sturgeon’s mistake of promising to join the EU without knowing the terms in advance.

EU negotiators would ‘eat an independent Scotland for breakfast’ if it was ‘stupid enough to sell the shirts this way’, Mr Neil said.

The resulting customs issues would make those “around Northern Ireland protocol look like the proverbial Sunday School picnic”.

Ms Sturgeon said last year she would not separate the two issues, saying a yes vote would automatically bring Scotland back into the EU.


Mr Neil, who resigned as MSP last year, said it would be ‘a huge, unnecessary hostage of fortune which the no side will fully exploit’.

He said: “In Nicola’s scenario, we would be asking people to vote for EU membership without the people of Scotland knowing what they are being asked to vote for.

“We will not know what concessions we will have to make on issues like fishing rights in Scottish waters in order to satisfy these 27 member states.

“In effect, we will be asking the people of Scotland to sign a blank check to the EU and agree to the terms of membership without knowing what they are.

“No negotiator worth his salt would weaken Scotland’s negotiating position in this way.”

Mr Neil said the two issues should be separated and a single EU referendum should only take place after a yes vote “once we know the details of the terms and conditions” of the membership.

Until then, an independent Scotland could participate in the European Economic Area and access the EU single market as a member of the European Free Trade Association.

An SNP spokesperson said: ‘Scots voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, but we were dragged in against our will.

“Brexit is making us all poorer, it has caused incalculable damage to Scotland’s key industries and led to labor and supply shortages across the economy.

“Independence offers the people of Scotland the opportunity to undo the damage wrought by Brexit by joining the world’s largest trading bloc and restoring our freedom of movement with 27 other countries.

“Last May, the people of Scotland returned the SNP to government, with an increased vote share, on a clear manifesto of commitment to hold an independence referendum that offers them a brighter future as an independent country in the ‘EU.’

Comments are closed.