ANGUS Robertson received a standing ovation and huge applause from SNP conference delegates yesterday when he told them: “There will be a referendum on Scottish independence.”

In his first major public appearance since losing his Moray seat in June’s General Election, the SNP depute leader also told members that his party was committed to delivering an independent Scotland “as soon as we can”.

He did not set out a timescale for a second vote when he spoke at the conference in Glasgow, and warned the party had to adapt if it wanted to continue to win elections.

Robertson acknowledged the disappointment of losing 21 Westminster seats, including his own, but pointed out the SNP “still won a majority of MPs in Scotland, something that neither the Tories nor the Labour Party could do across the UK”.

He added: “All of us, whether we were returned or not, are committed to delivering Scottish independence as soon as we can because we have to save Scotland from this damaging hard Brexit approach of Theresa May and her dysfunctional government.

“However understandable it is to have an ambition that we should not change a winning approach, we cannot simply rerun past campaigns and expect the same outcomes.

“And I think we have to reflect on the fact that for the first time in a decade we do not face an imminent election. The next scheduled parliamentary polls will take place across Scotland in 2021 and this gives the SNP an unprecedented opportunity to involve our mass membership, to reach out to voters, to build our identified support, to raise campaign funds.”

Robertson said that with support for independence higher among younger voters, the party should be targeting a “new generation” of “natural SNP voters and potential new members”.

“We need to get out there and we need to work,” he told delegates.

“Can I appeal to each and every one of you at this conference, and those watching at home who are SNP members, please go back to your branches and constituencies and map out an organisational plan for the next years.

“Because ... there are 1300 or so days until the next Scottish Parliamentary election and there will also be a referendum on Scottish independence.”

He added: “We must be ready ... and that means we must start right now. And we must be very proud right now of the progressive government in Scotland.”

Starting off his speech, which preceded the address given by Nicola Sturgeon, Robertson name-checked The National, referring to a headline on Saturday which described his speech as well as taking in conference resolutions on drug reform and a ban on sex for rent.

“I have to start with an apology as I know a number of you will have read a preview in the excellent publication The National,” he said. “Are there readers of The National here? Yes? Good. Apparently, this session is sex, drugs and Angus Robertson.”

He went on to highlight his party’s election successes, saying the SNP had won seven in a row.

He added: “And notwithstanding the disappointment of losing seats in the recent Westminster election, the SNP still won a majority of MPs in Scotland, something that neither the Tories nor the Labour Party could do across the UK.

“You don’t hear this on television very often, but the SNP returned the highest percentage of candidates from any party in Britain and we should be very very proud of that.”

Robertson also congratulated Ian Blackford, who succeeded him as the SNP’s Westminster leader, and said politics was a “tough business” not just on politicians but also on their families.