THE SNP’s new Westminster leader has pledged to make Scotland’s voice heard in London, but said radical actions such as “walking out the chamber on a weekly basis” will not achieve the aims of the party.
Stephen Flynn said past actions such as the mass walkout of SNP MPs in 2018 to protest over Brexit were justified, but he did not believe people in Scotland would welcome seeing “stunts” at Westminster every week.
After some turbulent weeks for the group at Westminster with reports of leadership coups and frontbench resignations, he insisted the SNP group is “close-knit and focused”.
In an interview with The National, he also denied suggestions he will be seeking more autonomy from the SNP leadership in Edinburgh, describing Nicola Sturgeon as the “best politician in Europe”.
Reports that he's seeking more autonomy from Edinburgh have 'no basis in fact', @StephenFlynnSNP tells The National. Catch the full interview at https://t.co/liNyUbiH0Q from 8pm tonight 🗞 pic.twitter.com/tCuL88tHzw— The National (@ScotNational) December 20, 2022
The change of leadership for the SNP at Westminster has led some voices within the independence movement to call for the party to take a more radical approach.
However Flynn said there is a “time and place” for disruptive tactics and there had to be a reason for acting in such a way.
“When that's been done in the past, it has been done justifiably,” he said.
“Our focus, I think, rightly needs to be on holding the UK Government to account and promoting the brilliant work of the Scottish Government where possible, but making that case for Scottish independence.
“Now walking out of the chamber on a weekly basis will not achieve any of those aims. It just means there's going to be nobody there to stand up for our constituents and to speak out for Scotland.”
Walking out of Westminster every week won't achieve independence, SNP Westminster leader @StephenFlynnSNP tells us as he sets out his vision for the role. Catch the full interview via https://t.co/liNyUbAhSo from 8pm tonight 🗞 pic.twitter.com/xqqKhXUor7— The National (@ScotNational) December 20, 2022
He added: “Where there is opportunities to do things, we will explore that.
“But that's not my focus, and I'll be honest with you, I'm not sure the people of Scotland would be overly welcome to turning on the TV and seeing stunts every week, particularly when at the end of the day they don't achieve a huge amount.”
Flynn, who has denied plotting a coup against his predecessor Ian Blackford, described the group of SNP MPs at Westminster as “really close-knit and focused”.
However there has been three resignations from the frontbench since his election – Stewart McDonald, Chris Law and Pete Wishart, who issued a letter saying he was “bemused” by the changes in the leadership.
Flynn said he “of course” has spoken to Wishart since then, adding that he has always had a good relationship with the MP for Perth and North Perthshire.
He said: “He’s one of my favourite colleagues down here. He’s been at the forefront of the Scottish independence movement for a long time now and has achieved so much and we will continue to work closely together, going forward.
“The same applies with Stewart and Chris as well. I’m really focused on making sure that we do all come together and those guys have got a really key role to play within that.
“I know that when we go into that independence battleground we will all be standing shoulder to shoulder, which is the most important thing in all of that.”
Asked about claims that Flynn plans to seek more autonomy for the group from the SNP leadership in Edinburgh, he said this is one of many reports that has “no basis in fact”.
“Hopefully we can complement her excellent work because after all it's the First Minister who has taken us to this position - she is the most successful, probably the best politician in Europe," he said.
“We've got a lot to be grateful for and it's quite an opportunity for me and Mhairi [Black] to work alongside her to really push that independence case.”
When it comes to Labour surging in the UK polls and predictions they may win the next General Election, Flynn said he is not “overly concerned” about a potential threat to SNP votes.
He said: "We've obviously read a lot about the potential for Labour to maybe pick up some seats in Scotland - but this is them sitting at their the high water mark and they're barely squeaking a couple of seats in Scotland. So I'm not overly concerned about that.
“What we need to be focused on is our messaging, and when we ultimately look at our message and our positive vision for Scotland, I think the people of Scotland will buy into that.
“By stark contrast the Labour Party under Keir Starmer, when it comes to Brexit, when it comes to migration, when it comes to Scotland’s right to choose they are very much hand in glove with the Conservative Party. It's still Better Together in all but name.”
He added: “So I think when it comes to the country, it comes to that general election in the years to come, the folk who will cast their ballots will be very wise to Labour's policies in relation to Scotland and ultimately the fact that they don't marry in with what the people of Scotland want.”
Flynn has enjoyed a rapid rise to the top, having been elected as an MP only three years ago – and in that short time has also experienced some extremely turbulent political times brought by Brexit, the pandemic, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.
He added: “I wish we could get to a point where every single person in Scotland could come down and sit and watch proceedings in this place to see how out of touch it is with reality, how out of touch it is with the priorities of people back home, and I think that would be quite a powerful thing.
“Obviously, that's never going to happen, but being here, just drives home your sense of making sure you deliver that change and we deliver independence for Scotland.”