A SENIOR SNP MP has dismissed a suggestion that the Labour Party could allow parliamentary candidates to support Scottish independence, saying people should take it with “a pinch of salt”.

Tommy Sheppard, the SNP’s Westminster spokesperson on the constitution, was responding to claim in The Sunday Times that the move was being considered as one of the “radical options” Labour was considering to help it get back into power.

However, Sheppard told The National: “The ink on that piece of paper was barely dry when we saw Labour spin doctors take to the phones trying to try to dismiss it, saying that this is rubbish and it'll never happen until hell freezes over, so I think everyone needs to take it with a pinch of salt.

“If it were true, then I think that would be a welcome development because it would indicate that labour was prepared to do two things – one to recognise that people in Scotland have the right to choose what constitutional future they want, and two, to allow for the debate inside the Labour Party to reflect the debate inside the Scottish population.”

Sheppard said Labour had so far refused to acknowledge or endorse either of those principles, which was why it was in such a “shoddy” electoral position in Scotland.

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He said people also know that only the SNP will give them the choice of how Scotland should be governed in the future, while standing for all the social and economic improvements that Labour does, and more besides.

“With the SNP, people can get a social democratic vision of Scotland here and now, but they can also get the opportunity to have the political agency of independence to make that a reality much quicker than waiting for Westminster to deliver it,” said Sheppard.

“Even now with Labour being down to just above 20% in in the latest polls, gaining support from just about a fifth of the Scottish population – which is a shocking and catastrophic demise over the last 10 to 15 years – but even in that position, we know that a third of labour supporters still back independence.

“If Labour continues to refuse to acknowledge that a large number of its own supporters actually favour independence and probably a greater number would agree with the principle of at least having a choice, it could fall even further and become even less relevant than it is today.”

Sheppard said that people around Starmer were probably “looking aghast” at the party’s polling in Scotland and the inability of the Scottish party, “to actually grasp this nettle and recognise what it is people in Scotland want”.

He said that while he did not see it coming to very much, it would be a case of doing the right thing should it come to pass, and would be better than how indy-supporting members had been “ostracised” from branch meetings.

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“If Labour is going to be more open, more pluralistic, more democratic and allow different voices to be heard inside the party, I would have thought that's a good thing for any political party to do and might endear them slightly more to the population,” said Sheppard.

“Call me cynical, but the fact that they went out of their way to rubbish the story within hours of its publication does indicate a lack of sincerity in this, and maybe they're just trying to throw out signals presumably to try and resonate with some of the people who become disaffected with them.

“The proof of the pudding’s in the eating. We know they went out of their way to sack and not quite expel, but more or less practically neuter any candidates that made it through their selection procedures who have anything other than a slavish Unionist perspective.”

Veteran SNP MP Pete Wishart added to the criticism, tweeting: “Maybe, just maybe, they’re beginning to realise. They cannot make progress as a hard unionist party. Almost to their credit they’ll never ‘out union’ the Tories.”

SNP MSP Paul McLennan also dismissed the possibility, saying: “The idea that the Scottish Labour’s path back to power is to ‘consider’ accepting the democratic will of the Scottish people shows how out of touch they are and their lack of any sort of positive vision for the future. 

“Less than a year ago the SNP won the election by a landslide with a cast mandate to give the people of Scotland the choice of independence in a referendum. Until Scottish Labour accept that they are doomed to irrelevance.”

One Labour Party source told the Record: “This is fantasy. Scottish Labour is committed to fighting for Scotland's place in a reformed and renewed United Kingdom.”