THE result of the SNP’s depute leadership contest will represent the views of the party’s membership on the timing of a second independence referendum, according to one of the candidates for the post.

Inverclyde councillor Chris McEleny, who is standing on a platform of seeking a new vote within 18 months, said there was a clear distinction between his pitch in the election and that of rival Keith Brown, the Economy Secretary.

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Brown has said “there could be a referendum in one or two years” but his main argument during the contest has been focused on the need to get the party and Yes movement ready for a new vote.

Speaking to The National, McEleny said: “If members want a wait-and-see approach then they should vote for Keith Brown, but if they want a new referendum within 18 months then they should be voting for me.

“The outcome of the contest will represent the party membership’s views on the timing of a second referendum and I think they should reflect on that.”

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McEleny added: “There is a clear choice. The argument has been put forward that we should wait and see. But to me that defeats the purpose of the whole belief in independence: you either want to run your own affairs or you don’t.

“Personally I don’t want to wait and see how many women are subjected to the rape clause, I don’t want to see a second generation of Trident nuclear weapons imposed on the Clyde, I don’t want to see how much UK Government austerity is imposed on Scotland. I think it’s clear the time for independence is now.”

The question over the timing of a second independence referendum has dominated the SNP’s depute leadership contest, with the third candidate, Julie Hepburn, a senior activist and former party worker, backing a new vote before the next Holyrood election in 2021.

McEleny’s comments come just days after tens of thousands of people marched through Glasgow city centre in the biggest pro-independence gathering since the 2014 referendum.

Police Scotland estimated 35,000 attended the event on Saturday, while the organisers, grassroots campaign group All Under One Banner, said the figure was around 90,000. The three candidates for the SNP depute post all took part in the march, along with a number of the party’s MPs, MSPs and activists.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is due to update MSPs on her plans for a second referendum later this year.

Last year she revealed plans to hold a new vote between autumn this year and spring 2019, but announced “a reset” after her party lost 21 seats at the General Election.

Ahead of the election she wrote to the Prime Minister to request a section 30 order to give the Scottish Government the power to hold a new vote, but Theresa May refused.

The winner of the contest will be announced in June.