GAVIN Newlands has hit back at those criticising the SNP for focusing too much on the independence issue.

The Nationalist candidate for Paisley and Renfrewshire North said independence is the party’s “driving focus” and it would be seen as odd if they weren’t highlighting it.

Mr Newlands also stressed he isn’t campaigning for independence “for the sake of it” but because there are real issues with the current system.

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He said: “I couldn’t be prouder to support independence. I have been backing it since I was nine years old.

“The SNP was formed to campaign for independence, so my response to people saying the SNP are concentrating on independence is that it would be news to people if we weren’t talking about it.

“That’s our driving focus but it’s not just independence for itself, it’s independence for a reason.

“We think that, in the current system, Scotland is being held back and Scotland’s voice is not being listened to.”

Mr Newlands went on to highlight Brexit as “a case in point.”

He said: “It has, for a lot of people, shone a light on the democratic deficit that exists in the UK.”

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Mr Newlands, who hopes to win Paisley and Renfrewshire North for a third time, has also defended the party from a rival candidate’s claims that it is ignoring local issues.

“That’s utter nonsense,” he added. “A lot of local issues and policies are actually driven by a local authority or the Scottish Government, so he [the candidate] has to understand that a lot of the local issues he might be thinking of, he can’t influence.

“As Westminster MPs, we deal with the legislation which is reserved to Westminster. That’s why, in talking about what you can do as an MP, we try and stick to what we can influence, like Brexit and things like benefits. It can be frustrating but a lot of the issues people come to you about are not things which are reserved to Westminster.”

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