Page last updated at 13:49 GMT, Friday, 27 February 2009

Lib Dem MSP calls for referendum

John Farquhar Munro
Mr Farquhar Munro said it was time for the independence debate to be settled

A Liberal Democrat MSP has broken ranks with his party leader to call for an independence referendum.

In a BBC interview, Highlands MSP John Farquhar Munro said the sooner a vote was held the better.

Mr Munro said the debate on Scotland's future had gone far enough and the question now had to be settled.

He said he favoured a straight yes/no choice on independence rather than multiple options, which he claimed would "muddy the waters".

Mr Munro told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "I think that it's been debated for long enough.

I think the sooner it happens, the better
John Farquhar Munro

"For many years we've been hearing about the possibility of independence for Scotland through a referendum - through the result of a referendum.

"I think the sooner it happens, the better, so we establish a position - clear the air as it were - and we find out whether we are going to go ahead with an independent Scotland or whether the status quo will remain."

His party leader Tavish Scott has already ruled out supporting a referendum during the economic crisis.

But Mr Munro said he believed the wider party would back a public vote.

The SNP needs the Liberal Democrats on side to push a referendum bill through parliament.

'Vast majority'

A statement released on Mr Scott's behalf said: "It is astonishing that at a time of economic crisis, the SNP is wasting time trying to conjure up fictional support for a referendum, rather than getting on with sorting out our economy.

"Tavish Scott has made it perfectly clear that he does not support a referendum on independence, or a referendum that would let independence in by the back door.

"How many more jobs need to be lost before they realise this?"

First Minister Alex Salmond said Mr Scott should heed Mr Farquhar Munro's comments.

He said: "The Lib Dems change their stance on a regular basis, and they never all stick to the same policy.

"However, given that the vast majority of Lib Dem voters back a referendum - as do the Scottish people as a whole - Tavish Scott should follow John Farquhar's lead and support the right of the people to choose Scotland's future."

Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie MSP accused the Liberal Democrats of having "turned flip-flopping into an art form".

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