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by Margaret Taylor
17 February 2023
SNP shelves referendum plans with leadership contest due to run through March

SNP shelves referendum plans with leadership contest due to run through March

The SNP has abandoned plans to hold a special indyref conference next month, with voting on Nicola Sturgeon's replacement as party leader due to take place in the second half of March.

The first minister announced her resignation earlier this week, triggering a leadership contest.

The party had been due to meet on March 19 to firm up plans for how it would use either the next Westminster or Holyrood election as a de facto referendum on independence. 

However, national secretary Lorna Finn said that had now been postponed and that members "will be updated in due course on details of a rearranged event once the new party leader is in place".

The Times has reported that the de facto referndum plan, which was anounced by Sturgeon after the Supreme Court ruled that Holyrood does not have the power to hold a vote without Westminster's say-so, has now been abandoned.

It quotes 'senior party figures' as saying last night that the plan is “dead in the water”.

Exclusive polling published in Holyrood earlier this week indicated that both the public and SNP voters were divided over the plan, with the majority opposed to it.

Finn confirmed that nominations for Sturgeon's replacement opened on Wednesday night and will close next Friday. If more than two names are put forward they will be put to a membership vote between March 13 and March 27.

Finn said the conference had been shelved because "it would be wrong to have a newly elected leader tied to a key decision on how we deliver democracy in Scotland".

Depury First Minister John Swinney, who led the SNP between 2000 and 2004, had been tipped to run again but has ruled himself out of the race to replace Sturgeon.

In a Twitter post he said the party needs to "consider carefully, and in my view with a fresh perspective, how to pursue our aims" of holding another referendum on independence. 

"To create the space for that fresh perspective to emerge, I have decided not to be a candidate for leadership in the SNP," he wrote.

"At this critical moment, I believe there must be an open debate within the SNP about our direction."

The Daily Record has reported that health secretary Hunza Yousaf is planning to stand, quoting a friend as saying "Humza is veering that way".

Ash Regan, who stood down as community safety minister over concerns about the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which she defied the whip to vote against, is also understood to be considering standing.

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