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by Margaret Taylor
22 May 2023
Independence minister says de-facto referendum remains on the table

Independence minister says de-facto referendum remains on the table

Independence minister Jamie Hepburn has said that Nicola Sturgeon’s de-facto referendum plan remains on the table as the SNP gears up for its postponed special conference on independence next month.

After the UK Supreme Court ruled that it would not be lawful for the Scottish Government to hold a vote without Westminster’s say-so, the former first minister said her party would treat the next general election as a de-facto referendum and would campaign solely on the issue of independence.

During the campaign to replace Sturgeon as party leader Humza Yousaf, who succeeded her in March, distanced himself from the plan, saying he would prefer to garner support for independence until the point it was the “settled will” of the Scottish people.

However, when he appeared on the BBC Scotland Sunday Show at the weekend, Hepburn said his party’s convention on independence, which will be held in Dundee on 24 June after being postponed from March due to Sturgeon stepping down, would see members discuss “what our platform will be in advance of the 2024 general election".

He added that the de-facto referendum plan “will form part of our discussion”.

“The first minister has said that so long as it's rightly within the parameters of a legal, electoral route then no option should be taken off the table,” he said.

The convention was announced by SNP deputy leader Keith Brown at the weekend, with the SNP also confirming that its annual conference will take place in Aberdeen in October.

Brown said the convention would be “solely focused” on how to hold a legally binding referendum.

“We have won election after election and have a cast iron mandate for a fresh independence referendum – but the Westminster system is refusing to respect Scotland’s democratic wishes,” he said.

“As the only mass membership political party in Scotland we are calling on our members – the lifeblood of our party and movement – to help us secure that key vote that our country needs.”

Speaking after Hepburn’s interview, Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Donald Cameron accused the SNP of having “no intention of tackling Scotland’s real priorities”.

“They’re having yet another conference, just for their members, on how to break up the UK – something Scots decisively rejected,” he said, adding that the party’s “grasp of facts is skewed by their obsession with separation”.

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