Nicola Sturgeon told she must ‘move’ on referendum as veteran nationalists issue warning

Nicola Sturgeon grilled on independence by Andrew Marr

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The First Minister was issued the warning by one of Scotland’s leading political experts, Sir John Curtice who noted that she will have to “start to move” on her pledge for independence in order to satisfy SNP supporters. He noted her supporters would understand the coronavirus pandemic is a “priority” for her at the moment, but that she “has to deliver at some point in the next five years”.

He added there is “no way” she can face the electorate in 2026 without having first attempted to put the issue to the public.

His urging of Ms Sturgeon was echoed by veteran nationalists who issued similar warnings at John Swinney’s SNP conference address.

During his speech on Saturday, John Swinney aimed to satisfy those pushing for Scottish independence.

He told the audience that he too felt “impatient”, but that the movement has shown considerable progress since its conception.

He added that the case for an independent Scotland “grows ever stronger by the day”.

He said: “For those of you who are impatient for independence, I know how you feel.

“So am I. But I also take heart from just how far we have come as a movement.

“Our movement is growing and the case for independence grows ever stronger by the day.

“We are here to stay, and in the end, if we stay the course, we will win.”

Mr Swinney also criticised the UK Government in his speech by saying they had shown “contempt for Scottish democratic wishes” and “contempt for Scotland’s democratic parliament”.

Mr Swinney’s speech was criticised by veteran nationalists though, including Alex Neil, the former SNP cabinet minister.

Mr Neil said there was “no sign” of originality when it comes to the pro-independence cause, and warned that the party should seek a mandate for independence at the next UK general election.

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He added that more needs to be done to move the cause forward and to answer questions that have arisen on the topic.

He said: “It’s not enough just to shout ‘independence, independence, independence’, we’ve got to put flesh on the bones of the argument.

“That means spelling out in detail the answers to questions on currency, economic policy, the oil and gas industry, and our trading relationships.

“It’s not just a case of updating the white paper. It needs to be completely rewritten.”

While Jim Sillars, the former deputy leader of the SNP, said there was “nothing of substance” in Mr Swinney’s speech.

Mr Sillars issued a further rebuke of the deputy first minister’s address by adding: “John could not set the political heather on fire with a can of petrol and a lighted torch.”

His speech was also blasted by Mr Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, who echoed that the contents of the speech were “nothing original”.

While the Alba Party MP, Neale Hanvey, who left the SNP in March said: “If a referendum is not going to be delivered by the first minister, we need a fresh approach and a fresh team of parliamentarians who’ll act.”

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