The Liberal Democrats have told the SNP and Scottish Greens they “won’t play their game”, as the pro-independence parties seek to make the next election a de facto referendum on independence.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the leadership of the Greens have vowed to make the next Westminster general election a ballot solely on Scotland’s place in the UK.
That came after the Supreme Court ruled the Scottish Parliament cannot stage a second independence referendum without Westminster’s consent.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has branded the move “unspeakably arrogant” as he insisted his party will never support using an election as a substitute for a referendum.
The stance was confirmed at a special meeting of Lib Dem members earlier this week.
Mr Cole-Hamilton pledged his party will develop a manifesto covering issues which “matter most” to Scots, including tackling the cost-of-living crisis, the state of the NHS and the climate emergency.
He said: “No party or politician gets to dictate what an election is about. The people decide that. They give politicians their instructions.
“The ink wasn’t even dry on a damning Supreme Court judgment before Nicola Sturgeon decided to pivot to a selfish Plan C – hijacking an election for a de facto referendum.
“I find that unspeakably arrogant.
“The next general election will be about critically important issues, from the cost of living to the climate emergency to the state of the health service.
“It will be a chance to change our country’s future and remove the chaotic Conservatives from power, just like Liberal Democrats have been doing through our record by-election wins.
“Yet the SNP and Greens are effectively saying, ‘forget all that – this is only about our thing’.
“The Scottish Liberal Democrats won’t play their game. As a liberal and democratic party, we know how important these elections are.
“If the SNP and Greens won’t fight the cost-of-living crisis, the NHS crisis or the climate crisis, Scottish Liberal Democrats will.”
But SNP MSP Emma Roddick insisted: “What is unspeakably arrogant and, quite frankly, outrageous is denying people across Scotland a say over their future in a referendum when they overwhelmingly voted for it.
“The refusal to accept that Scotland has a right to choose its own future is neither liberal nor democratic – it’s a disgrace and illustrates the utter contempt Westminster parties have for people across Scotland.
“At a time when households are suffering the brutal consequences of years and years of cruel Westminster governments they didn’t vote for, it’s beyond any doubt that independence is essential to build a better future for everyone in Scotland – and people must have the chance to choose that future.”