‘Unbelievably reckless’ Blackford accused of ‘playing into Putin’s hands’ on independence

Ian Blackford calls for the prosecution of Putin as a 'war criminal'

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The SNP’s Westminster leader was criticised for “causing division in one of the west’s strongest nations” after he suggested that the war in Ukraine should not cause delays to an independence referendum. Speaking on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show, Mr Blackford said: “Is anybody suggesting that Putin should determine the timeline for an independence referendum in Scotland?” But the Scottish Conservative Party called the SNP politician’s remarks “reckless”.

It tweeted: “Even with war raging in Ukraine, Ian Blackford and the SNP want to push ahead with indyref2 next year.

“This reckless move would play right into Putin’s hands by causing division in one of the west’s strongest nations.”

Scottish Conservative MP John Lamont agreed, retweeting the Scottish Conservatives’ statements.

He added: “Unbelievably reckless.”

But previously Mr Blackford had suggested that the war in Ukraine may in fact delay the independence vote.

Speaking to PA in March, he said: “We have got to be respectful of the situation that we are in.

“I want that referendum to take place in a timely manner.

“I want us to be able to execute the mandate that we have.

“To those that are expressing a desire for us to get on with our job, of course, we will do so, but we have to be mindful of where we are.

“We have to play the ball where it lies just now and the only thing that I’m focusing on today is Ukraine.”

The SNP has proposed that the referendum should be held once the “Covid crisis has passed”, with reports indicating that it has been earmarked for 2023.

At the beginning of February, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that “preparatory work is underway” for a second referendum.

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Mr Blackford’s comments come in the wake of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24 2022.

The world has watched in horror as thousands of people have been killed, injured or displaced as a result of the fighting.

According to the UN’s latest estimates, published on March 18, at least 816 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since the war began.

The organisation has also said that at least 6.5million people have been displaced inside Ukraine, on top of the 3.2million people who have already fled the country.

Earlier this week, Ukrainian authorities accused Russian forces of bombing a theatre and a swimming pool, where hundreds of civilians – including pregnant women and children – were sheltering from the conflict.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry said Russia had committed a “horrendous war crime”.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden accused Putin of being a “war criminal”.

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