A senior SNP MP has said he 'would not bet' on the Scottish Government holding an independence referendum. 

Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil launched an attack on Nicola Sturgeon's policy of bringing an indpendence Bill through the Scottish Parliament saying that Hoyrood would have no power to put it into practice. 

Writing in the Press and Journal newspaper, Mr MacNeil said that the recent Supreme Court decision on blocking Scottish Parliament bills was a "seismic event", which showed MSPs how their "wings had been clipped". 

Earlier this month judges ruled against Scottish ministers over the legislative competency of two Bills after a challenge from the UK Government, finding that the Bills breached the "limitations imposed on the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament by the Scotland Act”.

READ MORE: SNP ministers lose landmark cases on extent of Holyrood's powers

Mr McNeil said that this was proof that Holyrood would not be able to hold a referendum, as constitutional matters are reserved to Westminster. 


Angus MacNeil 

Instead he called for a 'Plan B' route, with the “best way” for the country to gain independence being through a general election, a tactic which has previously been voted down at SNP conference by party members.

Mr MacNeil wrote: "All have been reminded that Holyrood is, indeed, closer to a council than a sovereign parliament, clearly a trapped vassal, which might come as a surprise to most at Holyrood.

"Recently I went to a Holyrood Magazine award ceremony – I am not often around Holyrood – and was seated at a table with some convivial Labour and Tory MSPs. 

"What struck me about the event is that all MSPs see themselves as parliamentarians in a proper parliament and vassals of no one.

"Alas to paraphrase Dylan Thomas: 'They sing in their chains like the sea.'"

The MP said that any referendum Bill would be blocked no matter who was in power "whether it be the SNP, Greens, Alba or the man in the moon."


First Minster Nicola Sturgeon

Mr MacNeil added: "Some people in the only debate forum we have had in this area, Twitter, feel that any denial of a mandated referendum is riding roughshod over democracy, it may well be, and I have every sympathy, but such an opinion is not considering the vassal creature that is the Scottish Parliament.

"A referendum is likely to be blocked regardless of the party in power in Scotland whether it be the SNP, Greens, Alba or the man in the moon.

"The Scottish Parliament looks to be no freer in organising a referendum on Scottish independence, than the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar might be to have a referendum for rescinding the 1266 Treaty of Perth and return the Hebrides to Norway.

"Either body, the council or the Scottish Parliament may get a mandate for something, but if it is not within their powers to deliver, they therefore cannot."

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However, Mr MacNeil urged independence supporters not to give up hope, saying that general elections could still provide a route.

He wrote: "If referendums are indeed to be blocked, due to lack of power at the Scottish Parliament, then the clever thing to do will be to use elections, in fact it will be the only ballot-box option left open.

"Elections also happen every five years which may console nationalists needlessly nervous of losing a referendum.

"The alternative to a referendum on independence is not unthinkable – it is humdrum now! Further we should not wallow in the “tranquilising drug of gradualism” as Martin Luther King might have cautioned.

"For the good of society, national and international, we need an urgency in Scotland."