THE SNP's policy convener has said his party must fight an imminent snap Westminster election as a "de facto" vote on independence.

Toni Giugliano made the comments to The Herald after Ian Blackford failed to say whether their party would regard such a poll in this way.

"The whole country is being held to ransom by Conservative MPs. We must be ready to fight a general election whenever it is called, as the defacto referendum on independence," Mr Giugliano told The Herald.

Mr Blackford was asked on Sky News this morning whether if Boris Johnson is forced to quit and a new Tory leader calls an election shortly afterwards, that poll would be the "referendum on the referendum".

However, he could not say whether any vote held soon would be the proxy referendum on the country's constitutional future outlined in Nicola Sturgeon's route map last week.

Under the First Minister's strategy she announced plans to hold Indyref2 on 19 October 2023 if the Supreme Court found her proposed bill using devolved powers lawful.

She said if the legislation was not found to be lawful the SNP would then campaign at the next general election - then expected in 2024 - on the single issue of whether Scotland should be an independent country and that this event would be a "de facto referendum".

However, it is now possible that with Mr Johnson's government appearing on the point of collapse, following the resignation of two Cabinet ministers and several junior ministers, a new Tory leader may call a snap election.

Asked if a snap election taking place soon would be a referendum on an independence referendum, Mr Blackford said: "What we said first and foremost is that we want to take this to the Supreme Court, let's do that, and set a course.

"Let's assume that we win that referendum but if we don't then we will look at our tactics for an independence referendum using a general election.

"But the sequence of that will be going to the Supreme Court first and if there is an election before that we of course will think long and hard how we fight that election.

"But it will be about Scotland's right to have a referendum to be an independent country."

Scottish Liberal Democrat Wendy Chamberlain MP said the First Minister should make it clear if a snap Westminster election would be fought by the SNP as a de facto referendum.

Ms Chamberlain said: “Current events are throwing a humiliating spotlight on the total ridiculousness of the SNP’s plan to make the next election a so-called de-facto referendum claims.

“Nicola Sturgeon should say whether her party intends to run in any future general election on the sole issue of independence. 

"SNP MPs would look ridiculous having nothing at all to say about the NHS emergency or the cost of living crisis but it's clear that for Nicola Sturgeon these issues always take second fiddle to breaking up the UK.” 

During the Sky News interview, rhe SNP’s leader at Westminster repeated his calls for the Prime Minister to go.

Mr Blackford said Mr Johnson has lost the trust of both voters and his party and should step aside to allow Westminster to focus on the “immense challenges” facing the country.

The SNP's Westminster leader was speaking after Will Quince resigned as Mr Johnson’s children and families minister on Wednesday, and Laura Trott quit as a ministerial aide. She said trust in politics “has been lost”.

Their resignations followed a string of departures from Mr Johnson’s Government on Tuesday evening, led by chancellor Rishi Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid.

Mr Blackford told Sky News the number of resignations has reached “crisis” point.
He said: “One man now needs to accept he is the problem, that he has lost the trust of the people of these islands, that he has lost the trust of the House of Commons and indeed a vast number of his MPs.

“He now needs to realise he needs to go.

“We’ve got Prime Minister’s Questions today and there’s lots of things we could be talking about, we need to be talking about the cost-of-living crisis, the war in Ukraine, but we won’t be because we will be speaking about Boris Johnson.

“He’s now a block on us in the House of Commons doing the job we need to do, and for the good of everybody Boris Johnson has to go.

“He simply shouldn’t be here. We stumble on from crisis to crisis. There has to be an end to this.

“We need to be able to go on and tackle the immense challenges we have.”

Mr Blackford described the Prime Minister as “a man who has no integrity, a man who has no shame”.

He added: “For the sake of everyone and for his own dignity and self-respect, he needs to realise this is over.

“We’re going to go into the winter very soon, the cost-of-living crisis is very much with us, we need to make sure we are dealing with inflation.

“We need to make sure we are dealing with the fundamentals and we can only do that when we lance the boil that is there, when this Prime Minister is gone from office.”

His comments came as a former Scotland Office minister told BBC Radio Scotland that more resignations from the Government could make Mr Johnson’s position “untenable”.