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Leading polling expert Professor Sir John Curtice said ongoing rifts in the nationalist party could cost Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon her goal of Scottish independence. He said splits in the SNP could be the “biggest risk” to the party’s future aims for a second independence referendum and stop it from “the realisation of their ambitions”.
He told The Courier: “The brutal truth, it seems to me, is that the biggest risk the SNP face to the realisation of their ambitions are their own internal divisions.
“Obviously Nicola Sturgeon will face the difficulties of the handling of the Alex Salmond affair and there is a reasonable debate to be had about what are you going to do if you get an overall majority and the UK Government does still say no.
“I suspect Sturgeon will be wise at some point to say a little bit more about that but she’s obviously determined at the moment to say, ‘I’m just not talking about independence at all’.”
The SNP leader is facing challenges to her authority as her very own members break ranks over the party’s direction to achieve independence.
Just this month, SNP veteran Dave Thompson announced he was quitting the party to form his own independence party the new Alliance for Independence (AFI) ahead of next year’s Holyrood elections.
Ms Sturgeon has come under renewed pressure to set out her roadmap to drag Scotland out of the Union.
But the SNP leader has insisted she is “100 percent” focussed on tackling COVID-19.
However, Sir John urged Ms Sturgeon to come up with a “Plan B” if Boris Johnson’s Government still continues to ignore the SNP’s demands for a second vote in the event of a majority government following an election, as polls predict a landslide for the SNP.
He said another plan was vital to “keep her troops happy” if Mr Johnson continues to block a Section 30 order, which transfers the power to hold a second vote from Westminster to Holyrood.
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Sir John said: “I think Sturgeon will need to give some indication that there is a plan B and maybe some indication of what it might mean.
“I think she would be wise, partly just to keep her troops happy, just to indicate what her alternative would be.”
It comes after the polling expert told BBC’s World at One last week that between 52 to 53 percent of Scottish people now favour independence from the UK.
Sir John added the coronavirus pandemic has led to a gain of up to two percent for independence during the last quarter of the year.
He said: “We have had nine independent polls conducted this year and so far in 2020 on average these have put yes at 51 percent and no at 49 percent.
“If you look at figures for the last quarter, the four polls done during the coronavirus pandemic that figure has crept up to 52 or 53 percent.
“So we have been looking at a sustained period of around six months in which on average the polls have been putting yes ahead.”
Meanwhile, Mr Thompson, the former SNP MSP who was instrumental to the party achieving power, is supporting a new pro-independence group for Holyrood.
He said he hoped the AFI would “max the Yes” and win up to 24 seats on the regional list system for a decisive Nationalist majority in 2021.
The party filed registration papers with the Electoral Commission this week.
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