NICOLA Sturgeon has been accused of a “distasteful” allusion to elderly Unionist voters dying after saying time and “demographics” are on the side of independence.
The First Minister made the comments in an interview with the Financial Times in which she also likened the constitutional battle over independence to a “waiting game”.
Last year Ms Sturgeon’s trusted ally Angus Robertson said “55,000 predominantly No supporting older voters passing away every year” contributed to a “gain” for the Yes side.
The former SNP Westminster leader, now the Constitution Secretary, was accused of hitting a “new low” for this party, given the lethal impact of the Covid pandemic.
Polls consistently show support for independence is strongest among the young – 60 per cent among decided under-35s in one recent poll, and weakest among the elderly.
Ms Sturgeon has said she wants a second independence referendum by the end of 2023, Covid permitting, but Boris Johnson has refused to grant her the power to hold it.
In her FT interview, she said she was confident that democracy would win out in the end.
She said: “I can’t look ahead and tell you exactly how this constitutional impasse is going to resolve itself, but it will resolve itself — and it will resolve itself on the side of democracy, because actually, the alternative is pretty unthinkable.
“I’ve got democracy on my side . . . if they think it’s about playing a waiting game, I’ve probably got time on my side as well. You look at the demographics of the support for independence – well, I’m not sure that’s going to get you out of this conundrum.”
Asked about the comments at Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon’s official spokesman refused to elucidate on them and said her comments spoke for themselves.
Asked if Ms Sturgeon was effectively saying death was on her side, he brushed the suggestion aside but failed to offer any other interpretation when pressed to do so.
Labour MP and Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray said: “These crass comments from Nicola Sturgeon reek of desperation and show she’s nothing to offer.
“The fact that this is the SNP’s plan tells you all you need to know about how well their separatist drive going.
“Meanwhile, we have no answers to even the most basic questions on currency, borders, and pensions.
“The reality is Scotland just isn’t buying what they’re selling. No demographic changes will fix the fact that they have no answers to the big questions.”
Tory MSP Donald Cameron said: “These appalling comments are chilling. It seems Nicola Sturgeon is implying that the independence movement will benefit from older people passing away.
“These comments are deeply offensive and she should apologise for them immediately.”
Susan Dalgety, a former special adviser to Labour First Minister Jack McConnell, said Ms Sturgeon had shown a “chilling lack of empathy from a leader”.
Nicola Sturgeon there retweeting the line that she has time on her side, that “demographics” are in her favour. So she’s happy to imply her strategy is to wait for older folk (majority against leaving UK) to die,” chilling lack of empathy from a leader https://t.co/F1Lp9R0KZH
— Susan Dalgety (@DalgetySusan) October 7, 2021
Pamela Nash, chief executive of the anti-independence group Scotland in Union, said: “Nicola Sturgeon’s interview shows how utterly obsessed she is with constitutional division rather than being focused on her government’s failings.
“And while she is less blunt, she is also making the same distasteful argument that her colleagues have repeatedly made about waiting for older Scots to die in the hope that this will deliver separation.
“The reality is that our younger generation are more interconnected than ever and want solutions for the future that will tackle challenges like climate change, not tired old constitutional arguments from the past.”