AN SNP front-bencher says SNP MPs have not walked out of Westminster because people would first have to vote for them on that basis.

Dr Philippa Whitford highlighted what happened with Sinn Fein members who did not take their seats and, in five years of Brexit discussions Northern Ireland did not have a “proper voice” in the Commons.

Her remarks came in an interview with John Drummond on The Nation Talks (TNT) from Independence Live, in which she also spoke about indyref2, her new EU brief and her belief that Labour will have to support independence and become a social democratic party if they want to survive in Scotland.

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“If I didn't have to go next Monday, I'd be very happy bunny,” she said. “But we're not an abstentionist party.

“I think if you're going to do that you need to stand on that basis. People need to vote for you on the basis that they will not have any direct physical representation in the parliament.

“I don't think you could take votes as representing people and then just decide that you're not going to.

“Sinn Fein, as you know, don't take their seats and what I saw during the five years of Brexit evolving was that Northern Ireland did not have a proper voice in the House of Commons, and the only voice that was there was the DUP which is very much on one side of the argument.

“Had Sinn Fein been there at the hung parliament of Theresa May, actually their seven votes would often have swung Brexit votes for us to have moved away from the hard Brexit that we ended up with.

“So for me, for us to not go, you suddenly have six Scottish Tory MPs who say ‘we are the voice of Scotland in Westminster’.

“Of course we can’t outvote the rest of the MPs at Westminster, that's why we need independence. It's as simple as that.

“But if we are not there, then the majority view of Scotland on issues like COVID on issues like Brexit, on issues like social justice, which go way beyond precisely which party you vote for, simply wouldn't be there.”

Whitford (below) said SNP members would have to make clear they were “abstentionist” before standing for election and could not simply decide not to go and leave the entire stage to Douglas Ross and his crew.

The National:

She went on to assure her host that work on indyref2 was continuing behind the scenes, but people had to recognise the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

When she was elected in 2015, Whitford said there had just been a referendum which they lost, so they did not stand on the basis of independence, instead opting to be a stronger voice for Scotland in Westminster.

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“In 2017, the First Minister demanded a Section 30 [order] after the report, Scotland's Place in Europe was chucked out after about six weeks, and said we want a referendum.

“Theresa May countered with a snap election, we lost 40% of our MPs. We therefore could not claim a mandate on that election, that we had rising support for independence in Scotland.”

Whitford said that changed in 2019 when the SNP bounced back and reclaimed many of the seats it had lost, which was the first time they were on a rising tide and could say support for independence in Scotland was high and demand a referendum.

“The First Minister in January 2020 said exactly that, and then Covid hit,” she said.

“Anyone who's on here, who thinks that people who are not literally mired activists on the constitutional question, want to even hear from you on the doorstep, you're deluding yourself. “People are thinking about Covid. And if you look at 2020, the First Minister got support for independence to 58% not by talking about it, not by declaring a campaign, but because people could clearly see she was doing her darndest to take us through the Covid pandemic as safely as possible.

“That is as important now as it was in 2020. People are working behind the scenes and I totally agree with you, that there will be a need to be coming out with ‘here's the bits that will be easy, here's the bits that will be difficult.

“But it will be worth it, because in future we will not have a government of a neighbouring country that can drag us out of a single market, that can put nuclear weapons on our soil, or who can remove financial welfare support to the poorest people in our society without us being able to do anything about it.”