The National, by Andrew Learmonth
Former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars has come to the defence of Pete Wishart over the timing of a second referendum, telling angry independence supporters to “lay off the man”.
Over the weekend, Wishart used a post on his blog to detail criticism he’d received after suggesting a vote on the constitution should be held later rather than sooner.
The Perthshire MP said he’d been described as “an Etonian boot licker” who was more interested in “settling down” in Westminster.
Wishart added that he was “genuinely surprised by the vehemence of people I presumed were political comrades”.
He said: “It would be easy to dismiss this as ‘just Twitter’ but I know that environment reasonably well and I have to conclude we might have an issue and difficulty in our movement.
“My ‘crime’ was to simply express my view that we must be as pragmatic as possible in calling a second referendum on independence.”
The MP went on: “I asked how we may re-engage yes leavers and I, again, put the need for a new case to persuade those amongst our fellow Scots who remain unconvinced about the case for independence. My conclusion was that we simply cannot afford to lose another referendum.”
Those comments in turn sparked anger and annoyance.
High-profile pro-independence tweeter GA Ponsonby suggested Wishart wanted media coverage in a bid to appeal to Tory and Labour voters in his marginal constituency.
“Was this high-profile coverage Pete Wishart’s intention all along? If so, then the movement has been used in a calculated stunt in order to help him retain his seat in any forthcoming general election,” the pseudonymous Ponsonby tweeted.
It all came as a Panelbase poll for the Sunday Times suggested there was little change in support for independence, with 43 per cent of respondents backing a Yes vote.
Yesterday Sillars tweeted that Wishart’s “independence credentials, earned when the going seemed impossible, [are] unimpeachable”.
Later, writing for the i paper, Sillars said: “These are frustrating times for Yes people, and turning in on themselves is a natural political phenomenon that requires some sensible thinking and handling before it becomes damaging.
“For anyone to believe Pete Wishart would sell the jerseys now does their mental condition a disfavour.”
Sillars, who was Brexit supporter, argued that it was too soon to make the case for independence.
“The Scotland that was in 2014, inside the EU, is not the Scotland that is going to be with Brexit; and that will not be clear until the Brexit treaty is signed, and studied in detail.
“Until that is done, we shall not have any definitive policy on a future Scotland on which to fight an independence referendum.”
He argued that the structures weren’t yet in place.
“If we are to build a majority, once we know what policies to deploy when the terms of Brexit are finally known, we need to be strong on the ground, capable of launching and sustaining an educational campaign to take us up to 60 per cent in the polls, and stay there over at least six months, so that our support is rock solid and our demand for a referendum unstoppable.
“This analysis, which I suspect is shared by Pete Wishart, is not a sell-out. It is the reality.”
MP Angus MacNeil yesterday tweeted a poll asking his followers when they though the second Scottish independence referendum should be held.
Questions over the timing of a second referendum have dominated the SNP’s hunt for a new depute leader.