THE SNP should only head to Westminster when absolutely necessary, one of the party’s most senior MPs has said. 

Kenny MacAskill has called for a form of “semi-abstentionism,” speaking in debates and taking part in votes “only when needed”. 

The call from the East Lothian MP will almost certainly draw comparisons to Sinn Fein’s seven MPs who refuse to take their seats in the Commons.

But MacAskill said the form of abstentionism practiced by Irish nationalists wouldn’t be acceptable to Scottish voters”. 

He told The National: ”I’ve argued and this follows on for what I call ‘semi-abstentionism’. Not a full refusal to go. But only when needed and to use the institution. It’s a change of priorities and the triggering of a message to Westminster”.

Writing on the Wings Over Scotland blog, the former Scottish Government justice secretary said the numbers in parliament meant the SNP’s “fine speeches given and incisive questioning of Ministers” were having little effect. 

MacAskill said the recent “comprehensive” defeat of an SNP attempt to amend the Internal Market Bill showed that the party were “not amongst friends and have few allies.”

He said that SNP objections to the legislation have been ignored, “just as the outcome of the election was under a year ago.”

MacAskill added: “So, when the Tories fail to respect Scottish rights and interests, why dutifully accept a responsibility to an institution that’s not only delivering that harm but undermining the ability to deliver our goal of independence. Why defend devolution where you will always lose? Instead campaign for independence, where we can and must win.

“What’s the point of sitting on committees discussing legislation you cannot even vote upon? Or doing excellent work when it’s routinely rejected? And how many of those fine speeches or incisive questions are even seen?

"Fears of alienating the Speaker are fatuous – the contempt from that institution for us and its intentions for our country are clear. For sure there’s times to attend, contributions to be made and votes to be cast. But there’s also a stand to be made.”

He said the SNP's MPs and their staff were “a resource that should be focussed in Scotland, especially as the most critical election in our nation’s history nears.”

“Surely the time has come to turn the rhetoric into reality and prepare to settle up, not settle down? Otherwise the danger is you’re legitimising not only your own demise, but that of our country,” he added.

The SNP has been approached for comment.

A Scottish Tory spokesman described it as a "stunt"

He said: “People across Scotland expect their elected representatives to turn up to Parliament and represent them on their behalf.

“Instead, we have here a senior SNP MP talking about engaging in a stunt, rather than focusing on the real issues affecting his constituents.”