As the UK prepares to put more than three years of uncertainty behind it when it leaves the EU this month, a stand-off over the country’s constitutional future appears inevitable. On Tuesday, Boris Johnson rejected Nicola Sturgeon’s call to hold another Scottish independence referendum in the wake of Brexit. The First Minister responded by saying that his position was “not politically sustainable” and that her government in Edinburgh would continue to press for a vote.
Moreover, she tweeted that the Tories were attempting to “deny democracy”.
According to a 2016 throwback report, though, Ms Sturgeon is also guilty of “denying democracy” as she appears to have silenced the Brexit support within her party.
Almost six months after the EU referendum, Jim Sillars, the party’s former deputy leader, told the Telegraph his contacts in the SNP Holyrood group had told him “five or six” members had voted to leave the bloc in June.
He added that he was also told they would not go public because life would become very difficult “if you go against the leadership”.
According to the report, Ms Sturgeon attempted to play down the disclosure in the Telegraph that Alex Neil, a former minister in her administration, had voted for Brexit.
She claimed it was “no surprise” and also questioned his suggestion that more SNP MSPs had told him they would do the same.
Mr Neil told the publication that he made the decision to leave around 10 days before the referendum, as he questioned why rule from Brussels would be better than being part of the union.
The former health minister said he had since been approached by “a number” of nationalist MSPs who voted for Brexit.
“And it now turns out that he was one of several other unknown SNP MSPs who voted for Brexit.
“How can Nicola Sturgeon use this vote to whip up grievance and claim independence must now be ‘on the table’ when several of her own MSPs backed it?
“In the Scottish Conservatives, we had Leavers and Remainers and MSPs were allowed to campaign on both sides.”
Mr Tomkins said voting Leave was “still considered a thought crime” by the SNP leadership, but now that Mr Neil had broken his silence, other SNP MSPs who backed Leave needed to “show some gumption”.
To this day, though, Mr Neil remains the only SNP MSP who has publicly admitted voting for Brexit.