THE "toxic mix" of England electing a pro-austerity Tory government and Scots backing the anti-austerity SNP could rapidly lead to a second independence referendum, the SNP's former deputy leader said yesterday.


With the two countries now at ideological loggerheads, Jim Sillars said how David Cameron handled the changed political landscape in Scotland over the next six to nine months would be critical to the issue.

Unless the Prime Minister agreed to SNP demands for greater devolution, the party's membership would put a referendum in their 2016 Holyrood manifesto.

Speaking to the Sunday Herald from Portugal, Sillars said Scots had voted against austerity, but England had voted for the Tories who planned "more severe austerity".

The Conservatives have promised not to raise income tax, national insurance or VAT, implying sharp cuts in public spending and welfare benefits to end the deficit.

Sillars, who won the Govan by-election for the SNP in 1988, said of the new government: "It was elected in England, not elected in Scotland. He [David Cameron] was elected by the English people, not the Scottish people.

"We have no mandate for a referendum - at the moment. But you take that political cocktail and that toxic mix.... what will happen over the next six to nine months, I think will determine what the party's attitude will be.

"If it became absolutely intolerable then the pressure will be on for us to seek a mandate for independence.

"In many ways that's up to how sensitive Cameron is to the Scottish situation.

"If I was him I would give Holyrood as much power as he possibly could in order to stave off pressure for an independence manifesto next year.

"Bear in mind the people who joined the SNP after the 18th of September joined primarily to get Scotland independent."

Despite Cameron presenting himself as an anti-SNP alternative to a weak Labour leadership during the election, Sillars said it was still possible for the Prime Minister to take a softer, more pragmatic approach now that the votes had been counted.

He pointed out that the Tory London mayor and newly elected MP Boris Johnson had suggested there should be "some sort of federal offer", and Chancellor George Osborne also said the Scottish result would have to be taken into account.

"The extraordinary decision in Scotland alters the whole political landscape, and alters Cameron's position," he said

Sillars also said it was not a foregone conclusion that SNP members would reject whatever Cameron offered, as the party had a history of banking gradual gains.

"But everything depends on him. If Cameron doesn't handle this properly, and we're back in the old trap of having rejected an English Tory government and got it ruling us, the only way out of that trap is independence. If he offers us something that partly gets us out that trap we haven't got a mandate for independence."