Nugent warns SNP conference: ditch the EU or lose supporters
The SNP should drop its support for EU membership, according to a leading member in the party’s local branch who spoke out at the national conference.
Yes Shetland minutes secretary Brian Nugent believes his party risks losing any future referendum on independence if it fails to change tack.
The 65-year-old – a relief porter at the Gilbert Bain hospital – points to the statistic that one-third of SNP voters opted for Leave in the Brexit referendum of 2016.
At the party’s conference in Glasgow on Sunday, he said: “Voters are not a tap to be turned on and off. If the SNP keep promoting an issue that the voters are not in favour of, then those voters might find others to vote for. And when it comes to Indyref2, when every vote will count, can we be sure that those Leave voters will just, automatically, come back on side?”
The SNP’s annual conference took place in Glasgow’s SEC (formerly the SECC) between Sunday and Tuesday.
Mr Nugent, from Hamnavoe, Burra, was one of a handful of Shetlanders to make the trip south.
On the opening day of the event, attendees were invited to acknowledge some of the perceived benefits of EU membership.
However, Mr Nugent quickly put himself at odds with the majority of the party faithful by calling for the resolution to be rejected.
He told his colleagues in the main chamber: “After the Brexit vote, we have a problem. One in three SNP voters voted to Leave. In moving the remit back, I am asking us to consider a different policy with regards to the EU.”
He added that he is opposed to the EU – but not because of immigration reasons. Rather, his view is based on the belief that “there is no democracy in the EU”.
Yet despite Mr Nugent’s best efforts, his intervention failed to persuade the room and a majority leant their support to the EU resolution.
Shetland South councillor Robbie McGregor, who was also at the conference, missed Mr Nugent’s contribution – but later told The Shetland Times that he disagrees with his fellow SNP supporter on the subject of the EU.
He said: “My position is that I’m a total Europhile and I very much look forward to independence for Scotland in the European Union.
“But we are a democratic party and Brian has a different view from what I have and is perfectly entitled to express that view even though I do not agree with it.”
He added: “We have to have connections with Europe, and Brexit is an absolute shambles and I believe it’s going to be against the interests of both the fishing community and the agricultural community in Shetland.”
Shetland’s SNP candidate in June’s general election, Miriam Brett, finished in second place with 6,749 votes – almost 5,000 fewer than winning candidate Alistair Carmichael (Liberal Democrats).
In the Scottish independence referendum of 2014, only 36 per cent of Shetlanders backed the Yes side.
The Shetland Times attempted to contact Yes Shetland chairman Iain Malcolmson for comment.