ONE of Nicola Sturgeon’s MPs has told her to hold an independence referendum this year instead of focusing on a People’s Vote on Brexit.

Angus Brendan MacNeil said “the people of Scotland have waited long enough”.

Speaking on Alex Salmond’s Russian TV show on Thursday, the Western Isles MP suggested others in the party also felt the First Minister should hold a vote soon.

He said: “Our advice: summer, early autumn 2019, this year, for a referendum. In a month or two’s time she can name the date.”

The comments underline the tensions within the SNP at the highest level over the timing of a second independence referendum.

Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly delayed the “precise timescale” promised for last autumn because of uncertainty over Brexit.

On Wednesday, she said she would say more on the subject in a “matter of weeks”.

However she also made clear her immediate priority was a People’s Vote on Brexit.

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SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford also said today: "A People's Vote is the right way to go. Oe basis of the paralysis in Parliament, we ought to put that back to the people."

But Mr MacNeil, who last year warned the SNP not to “dither” over independence, said he was puzzled by the approach.

He said: “The thing that puzzles me in Scotland is that we are playing too much, I would say, a People’s Vote when we should get on to our own people’s vote.

“There’s only one referendum with a mandate in the United Kingdom at the moment from any political party, and that is the referendum for Scottish independence, and that really is the way Scotland should be going.”

Mr Salmond asked him: “So do you think Nicola Sturgeon should seize this moment of parliamentary crisis at Westminster to forward her independence plans?”


Mr MacNeil replied: “Absolutely. Nicola Sturgeon has three steps at the moment.

“She has to identify the window [of opportunity], she has then to identify the process, and then she’s got to get specifics on the date.

“She doesn’t have to name the date today, but she has to trigger the gun that is going to happen on a specific window.

“Our advice: summer, early autumn 2019, this year, for a referendum. In a month or two’s time she can name the date.

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“She also needs to get the process sorted out by which she’s going to ask that.

“And if she’s not going [for] a referendum, she then has to pinpoint some general election, which she’s doing that. But the Scottish people have waited long enough now.

“We’ve been quite patient through the two and half year comedy at Westminster. We have to move on.”

Mr MacNeil is one of Ms Sturgeon's longest serving MPs, having first been elected in 2005.

It is not the first time Mr Salmond has given a platform to those advocating an early independence referendum on his show.

Last month the former First Minister also questioned Ms Sturgeon’s resolve on the issue, suggesting the SNP was “unsure as to when, or even whither, to launch their Caledonian lifeboat, and chart our own course for the Continent”.

After he won his judicial review case against the Scottish Government last week, his sole remark about Ms Sturgeon was also about independence.

He said pointedly: “What Nicola Sturgeon should do now is that she should concentrate on achieving independence for Scotland, particularly in the current political circumstance.”

The broadcast of Mr Salmond’s RT show came as Yes supporters gathered outside Holyrood too urge Ms Sturgeon to use her “triple-lock mandate” for a referendum before 2021.

Placards included “Gonnae jist dae it” and “Scotland needs you to call Indy2”.