VETERAN politician Dennis Canavan has said he believes he will see an independent Scotland in his lifetime. A new independence referendum should be held by 2021, according to the former chair of the Yes Campaign.

In a wide-ranging radio interview yesterday, the 76-year-old also talked movingly about how he struggles to cope with the deaths of four of his children.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney tweeted afterwards that the BBC Scotland interview was “a reminder of the principled contribution he has made to the politics of our country while coping with the agony of personal loss”.

On independence, Canavan, who was chair of the Yes Campaign in the run-up to the 2014 referendum, agreed mistakes had been made, particularly with regard to the SNP’s insistence that it would continue to use sterling as part of a formal currency union with the rest of the UK.

“The currency thing turned out to be disastrous because you cannot have a currency union with another partner unless the other partner agrees,” he said, adding that he was pleased to see growing support for an independent Scottish currency.

Canavan said there was a parliamentary mandate for another vote on independence but added he thought Nicola Sturgeon was wise to be cautious in the light of the ongoing certainty over Brexit.

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“Some people in her party would like a referendum maybe next week or next month but they are possibly being a bit unrealistic and I think she is wise to see how things go. I don’t see it in the immediate future but certainly before 2021,” he said, adding that he would like to play a role in the campaign.

Asked by presenter Gordon Brewer if he believed Scotland would be independent within the next 10 years, Dennis Canavan said: “I think Scotland will be independent within my lifetime and I am 76 years old now. I am fighting fit and blessed with a good life.”

Canavan, a Labour MP for 26 years, spoke of his conversion to the cause of independence and said that while his former party had changed, Corbyn still didn’t understand Scotland and would never be prime minister. “The best Labour can hope for is a coalition government which would lead to a dilution of policies,” he said.

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As for the leader of Scottish Labour, Richard Leonard, Canavan was equally dismissive of his chances of becoming First Minister at Holyrood: “He is not seen as being in charge of his own agenda,” said Canavan. “I think he ought to show more independence of mind and independence of leadership.”

Canavan said his support for Scottish independence was not based on emotion but his experience at Westminster, which taught him it was very difficult to deliver anything meaningful for Scotland.

Canavan also said he thought there would be another vote on whether the UK should leave the EU and this time the Remainers would win.

“I think that next time round people will be better informed of what it is all about. I think there is a great chance of Brexit not becoming a reality,” he said. Turning to the deaths of his children, Canavan revealed exercise and his faith helped him cope but it was still a struggle and he suffered from “terrible, indescribable bouts of depression”.

Asked if their deaths had made him stronger he said: “If you had asked me that question a couple of years ago I might have been in a position to say ‘yes perhaps it has strengthened my character in some respects’ but that was before the death of my only daughter, the fourth child I have lost.”

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He said he found it difficult to talk about his losses as the death of a child was the worst thing that could happen to any mum or dad.

“It is against the natural cycle of a life for a child to die before you and in my case it has happened not just once or twice or three times but four times and I still find it very, very difficult to comprehend,” said Canavan.

“I still wake up in the middle of the night sometimes, asking myself ‘is this true or is this a bad dream’ but sadly it is reality and I have got to face up to it. I suffer from terrible, indescribable bouts of depression at times but you have to struggle on.”

Struggling to contain his emotion, he added that he thought their deaths had probably strengthened his religious faith.

“Faith is a strange thing and I respect people that have different beliefs or disbeliefs but I know in my case that if I did not believe in God and a life hereafter then I think my depression would be even worse. I take some consolation from the fact that I believe my four deceased children are in God’s company – that they are not absolutely dead in every respect but their spirit lives on.”

The former marathon runner said exercise also helped him cope.

“If I am feeling very, very low I find that if I do some exercise – whether it’s walking, or swimming or getting out on my bike or whatever – that it makes me feel better. I would strongly recommend physical exercise and sport. Over my life I have found great enjoyment out of it and it has helped me to survive,” he said.