NICOLA Sturgeon yesterday attempted to manage the expectations of new SNP members clamouring for a second referendum by insisting the timing of another poll would be determined by public opinion.
Faced with a flood of new members, the party leader trod a delicate line at the SNP conference by warning that it would be “wrong” to hold another independence referendum without “strong evidence” the SNP could win.
To propose another referendum ... without strong evidence that a significant number of those who voted No have changed their minds would be wrong”Nicola Sturgeon
But at the same time, Ms Sturgeon attempted to offer something to those desperate to go to the polls by offering a scenario, that would trigger a repeat of last year’s vote.
Speaking at the largest SNP conference in history, Ms Sturgeon warned that demand for a second vote would become “unstoppable” if Scotland is taken out of the EU against its will.
At the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre, Ms Sturgeon also launched a withering attack on Jeremy Corbyn, indicating that the SNP would find it difficult to work with Labour at Westminster.
With an eye on next year’s Holyrood election, Ms Sturgeon also announced plans to build 50,000 affordable houses in the next parliament, if, as expected, the SNP finds itself in government for an unprecedented third time.
But with SNP membership standing at 114,121 and with more than 3,000 people expected to go to Aberdeen as delegates or exhibitors, Ms Sturgeon attempted to deal with the Scottish constitutional question on the opening day of the three-day event.
With some SNP delegates expressing frustration that the timing of a second referendum is not on the official agenda, Ms Sturgeon said the party would be guided by “respect and democracy”.
She said the party respected last year’s No vote, but added that if there was “strong and consistent” evidence that people had changed their minds then the SNP had no right to stand in the way of democracy.
“To propose another referendum in the next parliament without strong evidence that a significant number of those who voted No have changed their minds would be wrong and we won’t do it. [But] if there is strong and consistent evidence that people have changed their minds and that independence has become the choice of a clear majority in this country, then we have no right to rule out a referendum and we won’t do that either.”