FORMER Holyrood minister Alex Neil is undermining the fight for Scottish independence by supporting Brexit, a senior figure in the SNP has claimed.

Toni Giugliano, a member of the party’s ruling national executive committee, said voting to leave the European Union was counterproductive to the party’s founding principle.

“We are now in a unique position where we are considering a second independence referendum and there is no other issue other than Brexit which would have put the SNP in this position. Supporting Brexit undermines the cause of Scottish independence,” he said.

“I respect Alex Neil and I respect the views of people who voted to leave the European Union, but I am also of the view they do not understand what independence means. To suggest that an independent Scotland in Europe would not be independent is to suggest countries like Finland, Ireland, Holland and other small countries are not independent. Independence is not about being isolated, it is about working constructively with your partners to further the interests of all.”

Giugliano put down a motion, overwhelmingly passed at the SNP conference last month, calling for Scotland to prepare for a new independence referendum if the country’s EU membership is not safeguarded under Brexit. The resolution also welcomed the result that 62 per cent of voters in Scotland backed remaining in the bloc.

He spoke out in response to a newspaper article written by Neil in which he said he and other SNP MSPs secretly voted to leave the EU. Neil, who served as health and wellbeing secretary under Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, told the Daily Telegraph he had decided to back Brexit 10 days before the referendum on June 23.

His position was in stark contrast to the strong support the party expressed for remaining in the EU. Neil said his decision had been influenced by the growth of right-wing parties in Europe, the way Greece and Portugal had been treated by the bloc and the tone of the Remain campaign.

He said: “In the last 10 days of the campaign I was persuaded and [former chancellor] George Osborne just tipped me over with his emergency budget. I saw the scaremongering and there was no way I was going to endorse it.

“I was not going to vote for George Osborne and David Cameron’s scare campaign. There’s a number of my colleagues who have spoken to me privately who did the same. They don’t want to broadcast it. They were betwixt and between, and they voted Leave.”

The Airdrie and Shotts MSP, who stepped down from the cabinet after May’s Holyrood election, also warned that tying Scottish independence to EU membership risked alienating supporters.

He said: “A proportion may not well vote for independence. Anecdotally, a lot of them have hardened their position. A lot of them don’t understand why we don’t want to be run by London and would rather be run by Brussels.”

Neil later told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme he had not revealed his position publicly before the vote “out of deference to the First Minister and to the SNP government” and said he had faced no reproach or reprimand for his views. Asked whether he was supportive of Sturgeon’s position that Scotland should remain part of the EU, he said: “What the First Minister is saying is the key thing is access to the single market and I absolutely support that. I also totally support the view that the devolved administrations including the Scottish Government have to be at the top table in the Brexit negotiations.”

Scottish Conservatives constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins called on those SNP MSPs who backed Brexit to come forward. He said: “How can Nicola Sturgeon use this vote to whip up grievance and claim independence must now be ‘on the table’ when several of her own MSPs backed it?”

Neil could not be contacted last night but Leave voter Jim Sillars, a former deputy SNP leader, said a support for Brexit did not undermine ambitions to see Scotland become independent.

He said: “Some of us believe it will be much easier for Scotland to be independent if the UK is out of the EU. May I say to the Europhiles why is it we never hear any talk of Portugal or Greece when they are heaping praise on the Brussels arrogant elite?”

He believed there should not be a vote in the Commons on the negotiating terms before Article 50 is triggered, adding that Leave voters in the SNP were “fed up of being” trashed as “xenophobes” and “racists” by the leadership. must be at the forefront of the battle to block Brexit, says former First Minister Henry McLeish.24449 Tory quits over Brexit as May is told: ‘This could lose you Scotland’.24436 Sturgeon: David Cameron told me not to be silly when I warned he could lose Brexit vote.24433