Let’s get over it! SNP split erupts as Sturgeon rival lashes out at Brexit obsession

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Joanna Cherry, who is the SNP’s Shadow Justice and Home Affairs Secretary, said Scotland’s ruling party needed “fresh arguments” to win independence in the country. Reports of a bitter rivalry between Ms Cherry and Ms Sturgeon persist, and earlier this year, the SNP MP attempted to put those rumours to bed by insisting she does not “want to replace Nicola”, but wants “to get to know her better”. But in May, bitter infighting within the SNP erupted once again, after Ms Cherry was accused of acting “brazenly disloyal” to the party’s leader.

She was said to have made several “less than complimentary” remarks about the party’s position on the currency in an independent Scotland during an online party meeting.

A party source said: “The level of Cherry’s brazen disloyalty and barely-disguised personal ambition is quite staggering.”

Another party source told The Herald: “She wasn’t entirely complimentary about the Scottish Government, or the party leadership’s performance.”

Now Ms Cherry has admitted despite the SNP increasing seats from 35 to 48 in December’s general election, the huge win for Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party means Scotland’s ruling party has a lot less power to sway cross-party votes against the Government.

Writing in Scottish newspaper The National, she said: “The sad reality is that because Johnson won big in England and has an 80-seat majority, the SNP group at Westminster have less power in this parliament with 48 seats than we had with 35 seats in the previous hung parliament.

“The opportunities for the sort of cross-party working that delivered numerous defeats of the UK Government under both Theresa May and Johnson are gone; just as the days of endless Brexit skirmishes are over because the direct result of Johnson’s General Election victory was that Brexit has finally been delivered.”

Mr Johnson has refused to extend the Brexit transition period with the EU before beyond December 31, and is adamant a deal must be signed over the coming weeks in order for it to be ratified in the European Parliament.

Ms Cherry admitted the chances of an extension being granted between now and the end of the Brexit transition period are “negligible”, and conceded even if it did happen, it would only be “postponing the inevitable”.

She said: “It is important that we don’t expend energy fighting last year’s battles.

“Trying to ‘Stop Brexit’ was the right thing for the SNP to do. It reflected the views of the majority of Scottish voters.

“It was in the interests of our economy and society to keep Scotland and the UK in the EU. But we lost the battle and Brexit is now an irreversible reality.”

But despite her rivalry with Ms Sturgeon, the Shadow Justice and Home Affairs Secretary remains firmly behind the SNP’s continued push for Scottish independence, claiming the party’s opposition to Brexit is boosting support for Scotland’s departure from the UK.

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She said: “We know that the legacy of our opposition to Brexit has been increased support for the SNP and for independence. What the SNP must do now is to nurture that goodwill to deliver an independent Scotland.”

Ms Cherry conceded a second independence campaign will have to answer important questions about currency, how Scotland will join the EU and how to maintain cross-border trade with England, adding: “These are all legitimate questions.

“The good news is that strong answers exist, but they need to be packaged and articulated to voters.”

But she again warned the SNP must now forget about pursuing the Brexit argument to enable the party to have “fresh arguments for a new independence campaign”.

The Shadow Justice and Home Affairs Secretary is urging the SNP to adapt to a changing environment post-Brexit.

Ms Cherry concluded: “The SNP needs fresh arguments for a new independence campaign. There is no point in unthinkingly repeating past mantras or fighting past battles.

“We need to address the changed situation in which we find ourselves post Brexit.

“Internal debate and discussion should be encouraged.

“When the next independence campaign starts in earnest, the honed arguments which such internal debate will produce will be vital to ensuring victory.”

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