SNP members gather in Aberdeen for party conference as IndyRef2 demands grow

Thousands of SNP members will gather in Aberdeen for the party’s autumn conference amid growing impatience for a second referendum on Scottish independence.

Nicola Sturgeon during the SNP spring conference at the EICC i in April. The party will gather in Aberdeen this weekend. Picture: Andrew Milligan
Nicola Sturgeon during the SNP spring conference at the EICC i in April. The party will gather in Aberdeen this weekend. Picture: Andrew Milligan

The opening day of the event will see an attempt to force officials to add a debate on an alternative route to indyref2 to the agenda, before the conference has even begun.

Senior councillor Chris McEleny and MP Angus MacNeil, who are behind the plan, believe it is “vital” the party considers what to do if the UK Government refuses permission for a vote.

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Mr MacNeil said he felt the party had been engaging in “too much talk about the wrong referendum”, prioritising a drive for a second Brexit vote over indyref2.

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He and Mr McEleny want the SNP to declare that if it wins a pro-independence majority at the next Westminster or Holyrood election, it will have earned a mandate to start talks on exiting the UK.

The attempt to change the conference agenda will go ahead despite Nicola Sturgeon openly dismissing the idea, stressing there is no “short cut” to winning independence.

Mr McEleny is planning to put down an amendment backing the official agenda on the condition that a debate on “Plan B” is included, which will then have to be voted on by members.

It will be opposed by the party’s leadership, who are behind Ms Sturgeon’s position that the only route to independence is a legally-binding referendum identical to the one in 2014.

This would require a so-called Section 30 order transferring the necessary powers to be signed by the UK Government.

In an interview earlier this week, the First Minister said any future referendum had to be “beyond any doubt in terms of its legitimacy” for the result to be accepted in the UK and across the world.

But Mr MacNeil said the party’s priorities had become confused. “We really need to get a campaign going on independence,” he said.

“The last campaign started 28 months before the referendum, Section 30 was agreed 21 months before the referendum and the date was announced 18 months before.

“Two and a half years ago we were looking for a Section 30. That was Plan A, and Plan A still hasn’t worked.

“I think maybe the SNP has been a wee bit sidetracked by the fantastic car crash that is Brexit. There’s been too much talk about the wrong referendum from the SNP.”

SNP members may also be wondering what became of Ms Sturgeon’s promise that the party would launch “the biggest campaign on the economics of independence in our party’s history”.

In her previous conference speech in April, she said the party would distribute leaflets to all 2.4m households in Scotland “from this summer”, but since then nothing has emerged.

It is understood that the SNP has discussed launching a fresh independence drive to coincide with St Andrew’s Day on 30 November, although this has yet to be finalised.