SNP chiefs are being urged to use a virtual conference to decide if the party should adopt a “plan B” approach on independence.
Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil and Inverclyde councillor Chris McEleny want the manifesto for next year’s Holyrood elections to include a pledge that winning a pro-independence majority would be grounds to start negotiations with Westminster for Scotland to leave the UK.
The pair had hoped their alternative approach would be discussed at the SNP conference in June – but the event was cancelled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
They say the issue should be debated at a virtual conference, with SNP members given an online vote on whether the party should adopt this stance in May’s Scottish Parliament elections.
Referencing the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions that recently took place, Mr McEleny, leader of the SNP group on Inverclyde Council, said: “If we are now able to go for a picnic, play golf or go to bowling greens, then we should be able to talk about Scotland’s future.”
Both Mr McEleny and Mr MacNeil have been arguing an alternative approach is needed after first Theresa May and then Boris Johnson turned down Section 30 requests from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for power to be transferred to Scotland for a second vote on independence to be held.
The most recent request was made after the December general election saw the SNP increase its tally of MPs at Westminster, after a campaign focusing heavily on the issue of independence, but Mr Johnson refused in January.
On January 31, the day the UK formally left the European Union, Ms Sturgeon said there could come a time when the Scottish Government would consider holding a consultative vote on independence – if this was ruled to be legal by the courts.
In March, the Scottish Government halted all preparatory work for a future referendum as the coronavirus crisis hit.
The motion which Mr MacNeil and Mr McEleny want to see debated proposes that if a fresh independence referendum is “denied” by the UK Government and if the competence to hold a consultative referendum is not established, then the SNP 2021 Holyrood manifesto “shall state that the election of a pro-independence majority of seats shall be a mandate from the people of Scotland to commence independence negotiations with the UK Government”.
Mr MacNeil said: “We can’t afford to waste another mandate for independence by allowing a ‘Boris veto’ because we don’t have a Plan B for when he says ‘No’ again to a Section 30 request.”
He added: “If Scotland wants a choice on our own future then we need a strategy to deliver that. That is why it’s essential SNP members get to determine what our Scottish Parliament manifesto says that strategy will be.”
Mr McEleny stated: “When it comes to the biggest economic decisions of our lifetimes and what they are to be post coronavirus, the people of Scotland will have no say.
“Long-lasting choices are coming and coming fast. Who do we want to make them? Boris Johnson or The Scottish Government? That is a choice I believe the people of Scotland will want to make, for themselves.”
Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, accused the SNP pair of “ignoring the people in Scotland and trying to leave the UK through the back door”.
She insisted this “would be a democratic outrage” and added: “Only a third of people in Scotland support the First Minister’s timetable for another divisive referendum on separation.
“The SNP has rightly paused its campaign but this intervention shows that senior nationalist politicians aren’t willing to work to bring the country back together.”