SNP depute leadership candidate James Dornan has said Scotland could vote for independence next year as he pledged to get the party ready for it in his pitch for the job.

Speaking to a Sunday newspaper the Glasgow Cathcart MSP said a Yes vote in a new referendum could be achieved as soon as 2019 or 2020.

“Circumstances are changing almost every day. It has to be at a time from the SNP viewpoint when it is of maximum benefit for us and when that will be will be close to the [Scottish] election time, maybe 2019/2020 would be my guess.

Politics have never been more volatile than they have over the last few years.”

Dornan said driving the party towards achieving independence would be “crucial” to his campaign to replace Angus Robertson, who stood down earlier this month.

Dornan said he was “not convinced”, as some have argued, that plans for another referendum were to blame for the SNP losing 21 Westminster seats.

“I know people have equated that [a second referendum] with the 2017 result,” Dornan said. “I’m not so convinced. In 2017 there was clearly a co-ordinated arrangement – maybe unofficial – to get Alex [Salmond] out, get Angus [Robertson] out.”

In the same interview Dornan added that he did not think the attitude of Leave voters would stand in the way of the fight for independence after it emerged around a third of SNP voters backed a leave vote in the EU referendum in 2016.

He told the paper: “They talk about a third of our party voting to Leave, but I would bet you that having seen the burach – as Alex [Salmond] was fond of saying – they will be reconsidering their views on Brexit.”

Dornan said he would be campaigning to represent the SNP’s “authentic working- class voices”. With previous deputies having been Westminster-based, he said the next should come from Holyrood because the SNP should recognise the Scottish Parliament as the primary parliament.

Dornan, who is the convener of Holyrood’s education committee, is to date the only candidate to officially declare his intention to run in the contest.

The party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford, along with fellow MPs Pete Wishart, Tommy Sheppard, Philippa Whitford and Kirsty Blackman, are other possible contenders. Ivan McKee, the Glasgow Provan MP, is also thought to be considering entering the race.

The main debate among the candidates is expected to focus on new strategies for achieving independence. On Friday, Wishart called for a debate in the party and for a need to unite Yes Remainers andYes Leavers. He said a graduated approach to regaining EU membership may be one way of doing this.

SNP’s bosses are expected to announce a timetable for the race early next month with the winner unveiled at the party’s June conference in Aberdeen.

Europe expert Kirsty Hughes told The National in December a Yes vote would be needed in a second referendum by early 2019 if an independent Scotland wanted to move smoothy to European Union membership.

The director of the Scottish Centre of European Relations said if a new plebiscite within this timescale resulted in a Yes vote it would give the country two years to become independent before the UK left the single market in the event of a transition period of this length.

Support for independence currently stands at around 44 per cent to 49 per cent, according to recent opinion polls.

Following the triggering of Article 50 in March last year, the First Minister set out plans for a new referendum between Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019. However, after the snap General Election and the loss of 21 SNP MPs she put her plans temporarily on hold announcing a “reset” of her proposed timetable.

She told Holyrood she would delay her proposal to introduce legislation for a referendum, though later said it was still “likely” a referendum would be held by 2021.

After the election result a number of senior SNP figures advised the First Minister to put a second vote on hold until after the next Holyrood election in 2021, but as the Brexit process unfolds some have since revised their views.