The SNP needs to make Scottish independence 'relevant' to voters, says party's Westminster deputy

Kirsty BlackmanKirsty Blackman MP.
  • Exclusive: SNP Deputy leader at Westminster says her party have failed to make Scottish independence “relevant” to the public.
  • Kirsty Blackman tells BI the party has a “framing issue” about independence.
  • “A lot of people don’t get up in the morning and think about the union and how wonderful it is for their lives.”

LONDON – The SNP has failed to make the case for Scottish independence in a way that is “relevant” to Scottish people, the party’s deputy Westminster leader Kirsty Blackman has told Business Insider.

Blackman, who has been MP for Aberdeen North since 2015, said her party needed to accept that most voters were simply not obsessed about the independence question.

“There is a framing issue around it,” Blackman told BI.

“A lot of people don’t get up in the morning and think about the union and how wonderful it is for their lives or how wonderful independence would be for their lives.

“Even ardent supporters of independence or unionism don’t think about those things.”

She added: “They get up in the morning and think ‘should I put on the washing?’ or wonder how much their shopping bills are going to cost. That’s what people think about in their daily lives.”

The SNP’s decision to push for a second referendum was widely blamed for the party losing seats at last year’s general election.

Blackman, who is the deputy leader of the party’s 56 MPs in Westminster, suggested her party had “struggled” to make the case for independence to voters.

“What we need to do is make the arguments relevant to people. That’s something politicians have struggled with and haven’t done well enough.

“We need to be talking about the economic benefits of independence – because I believe there are lots of them – and how that would impact on people’s daily lives. [The] ways independence would improve their lives.”

Blackman became the SNP’s deputy Westminster following the June general election, in which the party lost its then-Westminster leader Angus Robertson.

The MP for Aberdeen, whose political career began as a local councillor in 2007, says she had never visited Westminster prior to being elected to Parliament in 2015.

“People always asked me ‘are you going to go to Holyrood? Are you going to go Westminster? and I used to say Holyrood was too far from where I lived and Westminster was really too far,” she told BI.

Sexual harassment scandal

Now, two years later, she’s the pro-independence party’s second most senior figure south of the border, and has been at the forefront of issues, such as the sexual harassment scandal, which has recently rocked UK politics.

Last month she warned that the issue risked falling off the agenda once media interest dies away.

A month on, she believes the issue is at risk of becoming a distant memory unless Prime Minister Theresa May and others take stronger and more urgent action to tackle it.

“All party leaders came out and talked about zero tolerance and how we need to take action quickly – but that was in November,” she said, speaking to BI in her parliamentary office.

“We still haven’t had the report in relation to the issue of people who work for MPs. That hasn’t happened quickly enough and I’m happy to raise that criticism of all people involved in it.”

She says her own experience of misogyny has been part of her day-to-day life in Westminster since being elected.

“Sometimes you will in a meeting, for example, raise something and nobody will notice whereas a man said the exact same thing it will get noticed and change will happen as a result of it,” she said.

“I don’t like the fact that people don’t just shake hands. Kissing on both cheeks is a bit odd. The hugging.

I don’t like the fact that people don’t just shake hands. Kissing on both cheeks is a bit odd.

“You wouldn’t do that if you were meeting a man. Why are you doing it to a woman? I don’t think it’s appropriate for a professional environment, to be honest.”

Blackman refused to be drawn on the question of her future political ambitions. “Where I go from here, I have no idea,” she insisted.

For now, she is focused on protecting Scotland’s interests in Brexit negotiations and ensuring government ministers look at the effects of leaving the European Union “beyond the palaces of Westminster.”

“Anywhere outside London and the south east of England doesn’t get much of a mention,” she said.

“In some the debates that are going on, you say to ministers ‘have you considered Scotland?’ and they kind of look at you blankly. It just never crosses their minds.”

She added: “On the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, we were promised amendments to Clause 11. We were promised that would happen at report stage. And then the government just decided it didn’t have enough time to do that.

“If a minister is standing up and making that promise to an entire nation, and then runs out time to do it, that’s unforgivable.”

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