Exclusive: Scotland Will Be Independent By The End Of The Decade, Says Stephen Flynn
Stephen Flynn said his time as leader so far has been "jam-packed, but enjoyable".
Scotland will be independent by the end of the decade, the SNP’s leader at Westminster has predicted.
Stephen Flynn told HuffPost UK he believed that the United Kingdom as we currently know it will have broken up by 2030.
In an exclusive interview seven weeks after he was elected to the top post, Flynn also said he believed that Nicola Sturgeon would be the leader to take Scotland out of the UK.
Although Sturgeon has insisted that the SNP has a mandate to pursue a second independence referendum, party chiefs have been careful not to set a date for when they believe Scotland will leave the UK.
Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to organise a legal independence referendum without Westminster’s approval - something the UK government has consistently refused to give.
But asked whether he believed Scotland would be independent by the end of the 2020s - less than seven years away - Flynn replied: “Yes.”
Flynn took over as the SNP’s Westminster leader after Ian Blackford stood down last month.
It was seen as a blow to Nicola Sturgeon’s authority, but Flynn insisted he was fully behind his party leader.
The Aberdeen South MP, who beat Alison Thewliss — another Sturgeon ally — in the race to replace Blackford said he believed the first minister was a “huge part” of why the party “has been so incredibly successful”.
“I think that long into the future she’s going to be not just the first minister of Scotland within the United Kingdom, but first minister of an independent Scotland,” he said.
Flynn, who was only elected in 2019, also threw his weight behind Sturgeon’s plan to turn the next general election into a “de facto” independence referendum.
Scotland’s first minister has said that if more than half of voters in Scotland back pro-independence parties, that should trigger the country’s exit from the UK.
The SNP will hold a special conference in March to decide the next steps in it a campaign for independence, with some of the party’s MPs opposed to Sturgeon’s proposal.
However, Flynn said his “preference” was the Sturgeon plan, but he welcomed the fact there will be an “open debate” on it.
He said: “I think if we went into conference and said ‘this is what we think should happen’, we’d be criticised for doing that.”
Flynn also denied that the SNP’s Westminster group was split after his election as leader led to a rare display of public dissent.
Veteran MP Pete Wishart quit the party’s frontbench, saying he was “bemused” by the change in leadership, while the highly-respected Stewart McDonald also stood down as the party’s defence spokesperson.
Then, last week, Martin Docherty-Hughes quit as chief whip after just six weeks in the role.
Flynn rejected the idea that the SNP is an “unhappy ship”, saying there had been a “really positive atmosphere these last few weeks”.
“There is always change when there is a change of leadership,” he said. “These things happen. Change happens in politics — it’s not a bad thing, it’s nothing to be afraid of.”