A new pro-independence party will contest the general election in Scotland because its leader fears that the SNP isn't doing enough to support the cause of Scottish independence.
Scotland's Independence Referendum Party (SIRP) will compete against the SNP in the Edinburgh West constituency, although the party leader has urged Nicola Sturgeon to withdraw the SNP candidate in the area to boost his vote.
The new party has targeted Edinburgh West because its leader, former community councillor Mark Whittet, believes the SNP is a "toxic and contaminated brand" in the area after previous SNP MP Michelle Thomson lost the party whip.
Whittet told BuzzFeed News that the SNP cannot win in the area so Sturgeon's candidate must stand down to ensure a pro-independence MP is sent to Westminster instead of the odds-on favourite Lib Dem candidate.
"I’ve written to Nicola Sturgeon, as one party leader to another, to suggest she stands up for Scotland by standing down in Edinburgh West and maximising the prospect of an independence-minded party winning in Edinburgh West," said the SIRP leader.
"The SNP, unfortunately, is a toxic and contaminated brand in Edinburgh West and almost inevitably guaranteed to lose. We could win Edinburgh West by garnering the pro-independence vote – especially if the SNP stand down."
Whittet, an SNP supporter, admitted he was taken by surprise when Theresa May announced a snap general election and he'd initially planned for the party to compete in the next Holyrood election and provide voters with a second pro-independence option.
However, he took the decision to stand as a candidate for the party in next month's election both due to the SNP's vulnerability in Edinburgh West and a fear that Sturgeon isn't doing enough to advance the cause of another referendum.
The SNP leader has insisted that the election is not about independence, despite the Scottish parliament supporting her call to hold a fresh vote after a debate on the issue shortly before the election was called.
"The rival parties, the unionist parties, all represent the same thing – preventing independence," said Whittet. "The Tories would be happy to see Labour win and vice versa."
He added: "Nicola Sturgeon is not getting her message across strongly enough that although this is a Westminster election, it is a proxy for Scotland’s referendum. I don’t think she’s doing enough to get that message across."
Whittet, who is based in the Edinburgh West constituency, said his party intends stand "across the board" in the next Holyrood election in 2021 should there not be a fresh independence referendum before it.
The SIRP leader has not yet received a reply from Sturgeon on his request that she removes the SNP candidate from the Edinburgh West contest, but added: "That call from us still stands."
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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