Battle lines drawn over indyref2 bid

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The two sides of the independence issue are drawing their battle lines as the region steels itself for a second independence referendum – known as indyref2.

On Tuesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s call for a second plebiscite was backed by the Scottish Parliament with a 69-59 vote in favour of seeking permission for a poll before the UK leaves the European Union.

And later that day, UK Prime Minister Theresa May signed the letter that triggers article 50, kicking off a two-year countdown to Brexit.

In between the two historic events, Borders Conservative MSP John Lamont mustered around 200 supporters for the second of two public meetings held locally to set out his stance against an indyref2 at Melrose Corn Exchange.

While his first gathering in Kelso on Monday was reportedly well received, at Melrose the following night there was perhaps a glimpse of the conflicts to come as a woman from Lauder was heckled by several of the attendees, told to “shut up, woman” and “sit bloody down”.

She was told by Mr Lamont’s fellow Conservative MSP Rachael Hamilton that she would be asked to leave if she did not sit down and was eventually thrown out of the hall after she questioned Mr Lamont’s claims that there is no desire in the Borders for indyref2. Outside the hall, the woman, Suzanne Chirnside said she was angry at being “manhandled” out of the meeting for having an opposing view.

She told the Southern: “I am not affiliated with the SNP, but I did campaign for a yes vote in the last referendum.

“All I was saying in there was that I don’t think the SNP wanted another referendum before 10 years had passed – a generation in political terms.

“I am sure the First Minister would rather not have a second referendum this quickly, but because Brexit, a material change that was in their mandate for the election last year, has been triggered, she doesn’t have a choice.”

A press release sent yesterday by Ross Sanderson, of Mr Lamont’s parliamentary and media office, said: “Unfortunately, one attendee had to be asked to leave as she repeatedly disrupted the meeting by shouting down other questioners and refusing to let any of the other people speak.”

One of the others present at the meeting talked about how he supported Mr Lamont’s views on indyref2 but added: “I have to say I am disappointed by the audience in here tonight, heckling someone with a different view.

“That is not how we are meant to do things.

“What we should be doing is engaging in debate by challenging them.”

Mr Lamont added: “People are disappointed, disheartened and concerned at the First Minister and the SNP’s attempt to drag us back to the division of the separation debate. The sense that I am getting from Borderers is that opposition to the idea of breaking up Britain has never been stronger and the turnout over the past few days certainly backs this up.”

Mrs Chirnside was not the only SNP campaigner to be heckled. Scottish Borders councillor John Mitchell was also in attendance and was dubbed “an extremist” by another attendee, who said he was being forced to leave the country rather than go through another referendum.

After the meeting, Mr Mitchell said: “I have been called a lot of things in my political career, but never an extremist.”