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SNP accused of pursuing ‘crackpot alternative’ to second independence referendum

The SNP has been accused of pursuing a “crackpot alternative” to a second independence referendum, with members set to vote on a potential new policy that could see talks on leaving the UK start if the party wins a majority of Scottish seats at the next general election.

A motion from SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf and Westminster leader Stephen Flynn in support of that is to be debated at the party’s conference next month.

It makes clear that as the UK Government has continued to “unjustly block a democratic referendum” the next Westminster general election – expected to take place some time in 2024 – could be a “means to offer that opportunity”.

The SNP manifesto for that election should “state on page one, line one” that a vote for the party is a vote for “Scotland to become an independent country”.

Humza Yousaf
The motion has been submitted by SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf, together with the party’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn (Robert Perry/PA)

The motion then goes on to add that “if the SNP subsequently wins the most seats at the General Election in Scotland, the Scottish Government is empowered to begin immediate negotiations with the UK Government to give democratic effect to Scotland becoming an independent country”.

It comes after successive Conservative prime ministers have rejected calls from the Scottish Government for another vote on the country’s place in the UK.

Meanwhile, the UK Supreme Court ruled that the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to organise its own ballot on the issue.

Mr Yousaf made clear at a special SNP convention on independence in June that winning a majority of Scottish seats in the next general election is his preferred route to achieving independence.

But commenting on the conference motion, to be debated at the SNP conference in Aberdeen in October, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “It seems like Humza Yousaf and Stephen Flynn have lost the plot.

“They had a gold standard referendum and lost it but now they want to invent a crackpot alternative that allows them to lose a bunch of seats but still break up the UK with a fraction of the vote.”

Former SNP leader Alex Salmond, who now heads up the rival pro-independence Alba Party, was also critical.

The former Scottish first minister stated: “No-one seriously believes that proposing a majority of seats as an independence mandate is at all credible.

“Given that Westminster have been allowed over repeated elections to dismiss a majority of SNP seats as a mandate for a mere referendum, why on earth would they concede it as a mandate for negotiating independence itself.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “Humza Yousaf outlined a general election strategy for the SNP at the party’s convention on independence in June. The core of that strategy was to ensure that the SNP contests the next UK general election on the issue of independence.”

The spokesperson said this had been discussed by SNP members at eight regional assesmblies over the summer, with the motion “drafted to reflect the feedback from that democratic process, and respect the views of members from across the country”.

The spokesperson added: “The resolution from Humza Yousaf and Stephen Flynn has now been published, and is open to amendment before it is debated at annual conference in October.”

The Scottish Conservatives constitution spokesperson, Donald Cameron, said: “Humza Yousaf has made it crystal clear. He’s hellbent on pushing forward an even more extreme version of Nicola Sturgeon’s deeply unpopular de facto referendum plan.

“People vote on a whole host of issues at general elections, rather than just on what Humza Yousaf wants them to.

“The self-styled first activist is continuing to prioritise his independence obsession over every other issue, which is a dereliction of duty during these challenging times.

“Humza Yousaf should be focusing on the real priorities of Scotland such as the cost-of-living crisis, reducing NHS waiting times and growing our economy.”