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Jo Swinson: I'm not a hypocrite for opposing indyref2

The Lib Dem leader claims a general election majority would give her a mandate to cancel Brexit.

By STV News

Published 16 Sep 2019.

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson has said it is not hypocritical for her to oppose a second independence referendum even if pro-independence parties win a majority in the next Holyrood election.

The relatively new party leader has vowed to cancel Brexit by revoking Article 50 if the Lib Dems win a majority in the next UK general election.

However, Swinson said the SNP-led push for a fresh independence vote in Scotland was an "entirely different situation".

Speaking ahead of Tuesday's keynote speech at Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth, she said that despite the party's policy shift, she still supported a second EU referendum, or People's Vote.

Her first party conference as leader comes as the Lib Dems have boosted their ranks of MPs through high-profile defections from Labour and the Conservatives.

Challenged by STV's Westminster correspondent Kathryn Samson on if her differing stances on Brexit and indyref2 were hypocritical - respecting some referendum results but not others - Swinson sought to outline her position.

The Liberal Democrat leader said: "I would like to have a People's Vote where a specific Brexit deal is put to the people for a final say.

"I've been campaigning for that for the last three and a half years and I'm still going to campaign to make that happen.

"But it is possible that we end up in a general election where the issue of Brexit will be decided, where Boris Johnson will say that a majority for the Conservatives will be a mandate to deliver a no-deal Brexit.

"I think it is vital that in such an election, the public have the chance to choose a different option - to choose no Brexit - and to choose a Liberal Democrat majority government that will stop Brexit by revoking Article 50."

Swinson went on: "We're trying to find a way out of a Brexit gridlock, a Brexit mess.

"I don't think there's anybody that looks at this situation and doesn't agree we're in a complete mess with Brexit, so we need to find a way through that.

"We're not in a mess in terms of Scotland's position within the United Kingdom.

"There's no argument to say that suddenly having a referendum that puts huge uncertainty onto our economy, that makes it harder to get business investment, that damages job prospects, is something that is a positive thing to do."

She said the 2014 referendum north of the border was a vote "on a very specific deal for independence and that was rejected".

The Lib Dem leader added: "The Brexit referendum was effectively on a blank sheet of paper that was summed up later as 'Brexit means Brexit'.

"Three and a half years on, it's still hard to get Brexiteers to agree what Brexit means.

"We need to get some clarity on that and to have people take their view, ideally through a People's Vote, and if not through a general election.

"It's an entirely different situation."