DELEGATES to the SNP conference backed the First Minister’s announcement she would publish an independence referendum bill next week.

Party members said after the Leave side’s win in the EU ballot the case for Scottish sovereignty was substantially stronger than in 2014.

Sue Friel, a management consultant, originally from Southampton, was formerly a passionate Unionist.

But she changed her political views to back Yes towards the end of the 2014 campaign and since then her backing for independence has become more passionate.

She told The National: “A few years ago I was the sort of person who crossed the road to get to the other side of the street when I saw Yes people. I thought they were maniacs."

“But here I am today an SNP member attending the party’s annual conference. I’ve had quite a change of mind. It was a pleasant surprise when Nicola Sturgeon announced she would be publishing the independence bill next week.

She added:“Publishing it tomorrow gives us time to persuade others to back the case. We need to persuade people like me who was a definite No supporter a few years back. The bill will need a lot of discussion and will need to be ready to go if and when it is necessary to use it.”

Friel, who is a member of the SNP branch in Linlithgow, said she changed her mind to support a Yes vote because through her work in business she believed Scotland would benefit from being independent.

“My support for independence has also increased since Nicola took over as SNP leader. I very much like her talk about inclusiveness. I will continue to feel English, but I also see myself as a new Scot. Scotland is my home and I belong here.”

Fellow delegates were delighted about the publication of the new bill.

Irene Hood, 66, a member of the SNP’s Newington South branch, said: “I am very very pleased. I think the timing is spot on. We don’t want to lose any more momentum from the result of the EU referendum.

“We are building up a movement of people who are looking at the mess the English government is in. I am absolutely ready for a new campaign and this time I am confident we will win. People are saying to me all the time, I wish I had voted Yes last time.”

Hood said she believed the new case was stronger than in 2014 and pointed to the crash in the value of the pound to indicate signs of a weakening UK economy under Brexit.

Hood’s friend Lee-Anne Menzies, 45, from the SNP’s Edinburgh Eastern branch, agreed.

“More than 5,000 EU nationals live in Edinburgh Eastern and each one of them deserves an answer over their continued status. At the moment we can’t answer that and I believe we need to make a change in Scotland so we can.

“So we have the right to allow them to remain here – and Scotland is very different from the xenophobic right wing that is in charge at Westminster,” she said.

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