AN SNP minister has been accused of lacking courage after he called for the party to "go down a gear" and embrace a more gradualist approach to winning independence. 

Over the weekend, Ben Macpherson, the minister for social security, said Scotland was unable to become a “successful, modern independent country in the short to medium term”.

Writing in the Scotland on Sunday, he said the lack of necessary infrastructure meant the transition to independence after any Yes vote could take “many years” or even “potentially decades”.


Ahead of the 2014 referendum, the Scottish Government's White Paper said the transition would take less than two years, with Scotland becoming independent on March 24 2016.

Mr Machpherson said his time in government had taught him that this was unlikely. 

“What I have learnt from my experience as minister for social security — delivering new Scottish government benefits and transferring thousands of existing cases from the DWP to Social Security Scotland — is that the practical implementation of constitutional change takes time if it is to be done securely and effectively.

“Wishful thinking and good intentions will not change that, and anyone suggesting there are shortcuts is not being upfront about the practical realities.”

Mr Macpherson said he appreciated that many independence supporters want "to see faster progress, especially after so much support has been gained in recent years."

"But it is the responsibility of those of us pushing for constitutional change to make sure an independent Scotland is in the best possible position to start successfully, with the means to do so.

"We must be ready if we want to take that leap responsibly; because any reckless, overly disruptive path to statehood would quickly make our quality of life in Scotland poorer.

"Better to go down a gear and take the journey at a reasonably safe speed, than crash trying to rush things.

"More independence, greater social justice, higher economic prosperity and re-entry to the EU are all absolutely achievable, but these things take time."

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Former SNP MSP Gil Paterson rejected the comments. 

“The lack of courage, the lack of leadership, the lack of ambition, the lack of how power works and most of all, the lack of confidence in the Scottish People all in one article,” he tweeted. 

There was also disagreement from leadership hopefuls, Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan. 

"I don’t agree with the approach set out," the Health Secretary said.

“I will never put independence on the backburner.

“In the face of the Tory cost-of-living crisis and Westminster’s attacks on Scotland’s democracy, the need for independence is more urgent now than ever before.

“Be in no doubt, as SNP leader and Scotland’s next First Minister, I will take the fight to Westminster by kickstarting the Yes campaign in my first week in office, mobilising the wider Yes movement.”

Ms Regan tweeted: "Not only have Scotland’s ambitions outgrown Devolution, but #Independence is critical in navigating the current (and upcoming) economic whirlwinds.

"I fundamentally disagree with @BenMacpherson as a gradualist approach will leave Scotland vulnerable.

"However I appreciate his honestly in – effectively – confirming his choice for a ‘Continuity Candidate’ is for years of prevarication on Independence.

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There was support for Mr Macpherson from his fellow minister, Tom Arthur.

"This is a thoughtful piece from @BenMacpherson and should be engaged with seriously," he tweeted. "Whether you agree or disagree with it, Ben's analysis sits within a longstanding school of thought that has been instrumental in reconvening our Parliament and SNP success."