Mhairi Black, the SNP’s deputy Westminster leader, has said that she has “no doubt whatsoever” that Scotland will become independent in her lifetime, despite major rifts within her party about who should replace the outgoing First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and how to best achieve Scottish independence.
Black, who was speaking at the New Statesman Future Generations conference on 14 March, also said that Kate Forbes, Scotland’s Finance Minister and one of the front-runners in the SNP leadership contest, had to prove herself when it came to gay rights. Forbes, a member of the evangelical Free Church of Scotland, has said that because of her faith she is personally opposed to gay marriage and having sex, or children, outside of marriage. When asked if LGBT+ MPs would struggle to work under Forbes, Black, who is married to a woman, replied: “She’s definitely got work to do. No doubt about that.”
The 28-year-old MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South also said that Forbes was “disingenuous” in her recent criticism of SNP leadership rivals. Forbes said in a debate earlier this month that a vote for her rivals, the Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and the community safety minister Ash Regan, would mean the Scottish people would receive “more of the same” from its government, and would be an “acceptance of mediocrity”. Black told the NS event that while she acknowledged “room for improvement”, Forbes’s criticism of Sturgeon’s legacy was “slightly disingenuous, especially when you’ve been part of that government, and it’s been delivering things”.
[See also: Does Labour have a future in Scotland?]
The dominant talking point of of the SNP leadership contest has been how best to achieve independence. Forbes and Ben Macpherson, the SNP minister for social security, have both advocated for a cautious, gradualist approach to avoid failure. “The frustration’s there, because I believe in independence,” Black said. “Because I think it will give Scotland the powers and tools it needs to be able to create policy that actually represents what’s best for Scotland.”
Black slammed the “horrible, horrible pieces of legislation” that the Conservative government has tried to push through, including the recent “stop the boats” migration bill. “Knowing that nobody in Scotland wanted this government, I get very frustrated,” she said.
“I have no doubt whatsoever that Scotland will become independent in my lifetime,” she added, but warned that the SNP needs to consider how it would maintain its electoral appeal should it achieve its primary goal. “The political parties that have the most to gain from independence are Labour and the Tories,” she said.
“I’ve always said the day after independence, my vote’s up for grabs, because to me, that’s the way that democracy should be,” said Black. Scottish voters will want more from their politicians in a post-independent Scotland, she argued. People will ask themselves, Black believes, “who’s going to earn my trust? Rather than just constantly having to vote for the least worst option.”