Nicola Sturgeon has insisted there is “no connection” between the war in Ukraine and the campaign for Scottish independence after prominent SNP members appeared to make comparisons between the two.
SNP president Mike Russell was criticized after he used his column in the National newspaper to like Ukraine potentially being ruled by Russia to Scotland remaining in the UK as a “result of an eight-year-old referendum”.
MSP Michelle Thomson also apologised after tweeting about Ukraine’s application to join the European Union accompanied by the message: “Just goes to show what political will can achieve. Remember this Scotland!”
In his column published last week, Russell wrote: “The right of people to choose how they are governed and by whom is an absolute and must be universally applied, respecting each and every democratic mandate.
“Nor can that right be circumscribed by history – just because something was, doesn’t mean it will always continue to be so whether that be rule from Moscow, or the result of an eight-year-old referendum.”
The comment was branded “crass” by Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie, while the Scottish Government’s Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson said there is “no direct comparison” between the situation in Ukraine and Scotland.
Thomson, the MSP for Falkirk East, subsequently deleted her post and wrote: “I noted and then tweeted something earlier that was insensitive regarding Ukraine. Like everyone, my first thoughts are sympathy for the people there.
“Apologies if I offended anyone.”
Asked about the remarks, Sturgeon told the PA news agency it would be “overstating things” to suggest that comparisons had been made, and she added: “There is no connection between a war in Ukraine and the support and campaign for independence in Scotland.
“What I think should unite all of us right now are some fundamental values, the values that underpin I think much of our democracy in Scotland – and certainly underpin my party and the independence movement – the commitment to democracy, freedom, the rule of international law and the value of the world coming together in solidarity.
“These are the values that we hold dear and these are the values that people bravely in Ukraine are standing up for in the toughest imaginable circumstances.
“But we should all remember right now this is about Ukraine fighting for these values and our responsibility is to do everything we can to support them.”
Responding to Sturgeon’s comments, Rennie said: “I’m glad Nicola Sturgeon has made it clear to her supporters that there is no connection between the war in Ukraine and Scottish independence.
“I hope this puts an end to crass and insensitive remarks so we can now unite behind the people of Ukraine.
“I have met people from Ukraine who live in Scotland. They asked for our help, they are deeply anxious and upset, and it is our responsibility to work together to help them.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.