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Case for independence ‘feeble’, says Carmichael following Holyrood vote

Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael and Highlands and Islands list MSP John Finnie of the Scottish Greens.

NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has claimed the case for Scottish independence is “increasingly feeble” after Holyrood voted 69-59 to formally request the powers to stage a fresh referendum.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon won Tuesday’s Scottish Parliament vote after the Scottish Greens sided with SNP members, while all Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative MSPs voted against.

It could mean a second independence referendum takes place by spring 2019, although the UK Government responded by saying it would not enter into talks until the process of leaving the EU is complete.

Speaking after the debate, Carmichael said: “If this debate has shown us anything it’s that the SNP and Greens’ case for yet another independence referendum is increasingly feeble.

“The SNP refuse to guarantee EU membership while the Greens are now checking the back of the sofa to find that petition with one million names on it.”

The Liberal Democrat MP said Sturgeon was “in an absurd position as she is using the EU to get her referendum but the referendum won’t get the EU”.

“The First Minister can’t use the EU to claim a mandate when her referendum won’t take us back in,” Carmichael said. “It shows that the EU was just an excuse and that it has only ever been about independence.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats stood on a manifesto to oppose a divisive referendum and we will continue to do that. The SNP say they speak for Scotland, well they spoke three years ago and told them no. Instead of hunting for division we need to sort out the problems on our doorstep.”

Highlands and Islands list MSP John Finnie said it was “disappointing, but perhaps not surprising, to see Mr Carmichael trotting out Tory party disinformation on the Greens”.

“Perhaps rather than misrepresenting the truth, Mr Carmichael should take the opportunity to read our manifesto,” he said.

“Given the result of the EU referendum, and the intention of Mr Carmichael’s former coalition partners to take Scotland out of the EU against our will, it’s quite clear that the Scottish Government has a mandate to call for another referendum.

“Our manifesto commits us to campaigning for independence and that’s exactly what we’ll do.”

The Greens also secured an amendment stipulating that 16-17 year olds and EU residents living in Scotland would be entitled to vote in the referendum.

Following the vote, Sturgeon said her argument was simply that “when the nature of the change that is made inevitable by Brexit becomes clear, that change should not be imposed upon us – we should have the right to decide the nature of that change”.

She added: “The people of Scotland have the right to choose between Brexit – possibly a very hard Brexit – or becoming an independent country, able to chart our own course and create a true partnership of equals across these islands.”

The SNP has suggested late 2018 or early 2019 as an appropriate time for holding a new poll, but others have suggested it could be 2021 before a referendum takes place.

Scottish secretary of state David Mundell, the Tories’ only MP north of the border, said the UK government was “not entering into negotiations on whether there should be another independence referendum during the Brexit process”.

“We don’t have a crystal ball as to how long that process will take,” he said. “We don’t recognise, for example, 18 months as being a key point in the journey.

“It will be a journey that will involve the negotiations with the EU, it may be a journey that involves transitional measures, it may be a journey that will involve significant implementation time.”