A LABOUR MSP who accused Unionist parties of shutting down the independence debate has "exposed the lack of respect for democracy" by the party under Anas Sarwar, the SNP has said. 

Alex Rowley, a former deputy leader, said pro-UK parties were doing the people of Scotland "a great disservice" by refusing to engage in discussions around the constitution and insisted it was "self-defeating". 

He said there was "clearly a majority of Scots who favour change" and claimed his own party is "out of touch" with the wider Labour movement, many of which favour a multi-option referendum. 

Rowley has now called for a commission to be set up to examine options for change.

In an article for the Daily Record, he wrote: "There is a clear majority of Scots who favour change.

"The options for change, however, are not being considered because political parties are closing down such discussions, scared that they might talk Scottish independence into reality and that by avoiding the subject, it might just go away.

“For those Unionist parties who simply refuse to discuss the question, I believe this is self-defeating - they will eventually be overwhelmed by the majority who want change and will opt for the only option on offer.

“As such, the ‘Never’ approach to the constitutional question denies the people of Scotland, including those that support remaining with the UK, an opportunity to examine and scrutinise the detail of any of the options for a change in direction for Scotland’s future.”

Kaukab Stewart, SNP MSP for Glasgow Kelvin, said Rowley was one of the few in the party "honest enough" to admit leader Anas Sarwar's position on independence is unsustainable.

She said: “Alex Rowley is right and his welcome intervention exposes the lack of respect for democracy by Scottish Labour under Anas Sarwar.

“But it also shows that there are senior figures in Scottish Labour who are not prepared to put up with this craven alliance with the Tories, in a Trump-like denial of democracy.

“The only reason people like Anas Sarwar are refusing to allow democracy and debate to take place is because they are running scared of the inevitable – that when the people of Scotland have their say, they will vote for a better future, away from ‘broken’ Westminster system that Rowley points to.

“Quite frankly, Anas Sarwar’s position is unsustainable. I suspect many in Scottish Labour are well aware of that but Alex Rowley is one of the few that is honest enough to admit it.  

“Sarwar needs to stop running scared. It’s time to accept that it is for the people of Scotland to decide their future and for him to make whatever case he can muster for a future of continued Westminster control over a fairer, more equal future as a normal independent country.”

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Rowley remains against Scotland leaving the Union but said the system governing the UK is "broken".

Sarwar scooped second place at the recent council elections, internal critics think he is way off winning over pro-independence voters.

Rowley suggested rather than closing down debate around the constitution, his party should be taking a leaf our of Welsh Labour's book after they established an independent commission to examine and consult with the public on the best options for Wales going forward.

And he predicted more Scots would get behind a referendum in the next few years even if they don't fancy it now.

He added: “I do not believe that independence is the best way forward for Scotland.

"But I do believe that the system governing the UK is broken and that to refuse to engage with what we can change out of fear of Scottish independence does a great disservice to all the people of Scotland, however they voted in the referendum and wherever their allegiances lie now.

“Whilst it is clear at the present time there is little appetite for a referendum, mainly due to the public health and economic pressures on the country, that view will no doubt change in the years ahead.

“Rather than trying to close the issues down, we should take a lead from the Welsh Labour government who have established an independent commission to examine and consult with the public on the best options for Wales moving forward.

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“The alternative of allowing divisions to grow and views to harden is in no one’s interest and certainly not in the interest of the people of Scotland.”

Nicola Sturgeon has said she wants a referendum on independence to take place by the end of next year.

SNP president Mike Russell said: "Alex has always been keen to have a genuine discussion in Scotland about independence, even though he does not support that constitutional option.  

"We need more fair-minded people to follow his lead, and accept that democratic choice demands debate, not the type of fearful hysteria we get from the Tory, Labour and Lib Dem leadership.    

"But a commission is no substitute for a vote, and that is what the Scottish people and Parliament are demanding."