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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Judith Duffy

SNP agree resolution text for delegates to vote on - here's their mixed reaction

SNP members will debate whether the next Westminster or Holyrood election should be used as a de facto independence referendum.

The party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) yesterday agreed the wording of a draft resolution to be discussed at its Special Democracy Conference in March.

The option previously outlined by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – for the SNP to fight the next General Election as a de facto referendum – is on the table.

However, an alternative plan has been set out to instead contest the Scottish Parliament election in 2026 on that basis.

The SNP said this proposal is to ensure there is “full and open” debate at conference and that the party’s constituency associations, branches and affiliated organisations will also be able to submit motions and amendments in the coming weeks.

The strategy has been set out in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling that Holyrood does not have the power to hold an independence referendum without the agreement of the UK Government.

Sturgeon said: “Westminster is denying democracy because it fears the verdict of the Scottish people on independence.

“There is a cast-iron democratic mandate for a referendum, and this remains the SNP’s preferred route to establishing the will of the people of Scotland.

“However, if Westminster continues to block a referendum – and if Scottish democracy is not to be negated as a result – an alternative democratic means of allowing the people of Scotland to express their will must be found.”

The SNP leader said the purpose of the Special Democracy Conference is to allow the party to debate and decide “which alternative route it wishes to offer the people of Scotland”. The National: Sturgeon at the 2019 SNP conferenceSturgeon at the 2019 SNP conference

“Given the significance of this decision for both the party and the country, it is important that this debate is a full, free and open one – which is what the draft resolution seeks to enable,” she said.

“It sets out – as I did last June – the option of contesting the next Westminster election as a de facto referendum.

“However, in the interests of a full and open debate, it also sets out the alternative option of contesting the next Scottish Parliament election on this basis.

“I am looking forward to the discussions that the party will have in the run up to and at this important conference, and I know it will then unite behind a course of action that will enable us to make and win the case for independence.”

She added: “While this will be a debate on the process of securing independence, it is one that will be guided by a fundamental principle – that the future of Scotland must and will be decided by the people of Scotland, not by Westminster politicians.

“And it will also be underpinned by the strength of the substantive case for Scotland becoming an independent country.”

The NEC draft resolution states that the Scottish Government will “continue all reasonable efforts” to get an agreement with the UK Government over holding an independence referendum.

But it says an alternative must be offered if this continues to be blocked – and sets out the two options which it says are “credible and deliverable”.

The option for contesting the next UK General Election as a de facto referendum states: “If a majority of those voting in the election vote SNP – or if the combined votes for the SNP and any other party with which it has reached a pro-independence agreement in advance of the election constitute a majority of votes cast – we will consider that a mandate to enter negotiations with the UK Government to secure independence.”

The other option is for the SNP to contest the next UK General Election on the issue of securing agreement for a transfer of power to enable the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a referendum.

It states: “The SNP will make clear that it is asking people to vote SNP in that election to indicate support for a referendum.

“If the SNP wins a majority of Scottish seats, it will take the demand for the necessary transfer of power to the UK Government.

“Should that demand – backed by the Scottish people – be denied again, the SNP will contest the Scottish Parliament election in 2026 as a de facto referendum.”

The proposals were met with a mixed reception by independence supporters.

SNP MP Pete Wishart tweeted: “The motion agreed by the SNP NEC allows for a full discussion to ensure Scotland gets the choice about its future that the Scottish people voted for.”

Josh Mennie, co-founder of the Aberdeen Independence Movement, said: “I am very pleased with the draft proposals following the outcome of today’s SNP NEC meeting.

“The resolution very evidently puts forth and displays the will of the Scottish people and our democracy at its core.”

SNP policy convener Toni Giugliano tweeted: “The NEC resolution kickstarts a process of engagement with @theSNP grassroots. I hope branches engage fully – as the final decision rests with conference.

“On the resolution itself – I welcome its framing and the opportunity to have a full and open debate.”

However, Alba MP Kenny MacAskill told the Sunday National that the idea of not holding the de facto referendum until 2026 “sadly just seems to be par for the course”.

The National: Alba MP Kenny MacAskillAlba MP Kenny MacAskill (Image: Alba)

He added: “People in Scotland are freezing and we can’t continue to kick the can down the road – and sadly this SNP decision seems to be lobbing the can as far down the road as they can possibly put it.”

Marcus Carslaw, vice-convener of the Glasgow Kelvin branch of the SNP, who recently wrote in The National that a de facto referendum was a “high-risk gamble”, tweeted: “Kicking the de facto can down the road to 2026 doesn’t overcome the obstacle of the UK Government refusing to come to the negotiating table, only sustained majority support will.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Greens said: “The Scottish Greens are committed to delivering independence for Scotland.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “As the Prime Minister has been clear, we will continue to work constructively with the Scottish Government to tackle our shared challenges.”

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