A PLAN B route to independence if the UK Government continues to refuse a second referendum has prompted a debate among SNP politicians.

Tommy Sheppard, the MP for Edinburgh East, stated that his party needed to demonstrate that it has majority support for independence.

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He gave his view after SNP MP Angus MacNeil and senior councillor Chris McEleny submitted a motion to the party conference arguing if a referendum had not taken place by Autumn 2020, a majority of SNP seats at a Holyrood or Westminster election would be a mandate to spark independence negotiations.

But Sheppard said winning a majority of seats in an election did not demonstrate that most Scots backed independence. The SNP won a majority of seats in Scotland at the 2017 election on 37% of the vote.

“I believe we need to demonstrate we have majority support for independence in a free and open ballot on the question,” he said.

“There are two problems about using an election. For it to be seen as legitimate to move to independence we would need to demonstrate that we had the support of more than half the population, 50% plus one.

“In a multi-party contest when people are voting for all sorts of things and are voting for more than one party which supports independence it is difficult if not impossible to achieve that result.”

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He added: “I also think our mandate for independence has to come from a Scottish context, either a referendum or a Scottish election.”

Sheppard pointed out that while Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt were opposed to a referendum, a request has not yet been made for a new Section 30 order to hold a legally binding referendum.

“I’m not against contingency planning, but you don’t advance your Plan B until you have tried your Plan A,” he said.

Toni Giugliano, a former SNP candidate, was also not keen on MacNeil and McEleny’s proposal.

“I don’t think it will wash with the Scottish electorate. It was the sort of idea that was around before we had a Scottish Parliament, but we have moved on. There was the 2014 gold standard,” he said.

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“This is probably the worst time to be having this discussion in the middle of a Tory leadership election where the candidates are playing to their own gallery. They are hardly going to tell their own members that they are going to give Scotland a referendum.

“I suspect Boris Johnson is going to win and I genuinely believe there’s not a Unionist bone in his body. I think it’s bluster and he doesn’t care about Scotland. The SNP should be thinking strategically about what kind of deal(s) could be struck with him to deliver a Section 30 order. The circumstances that might lead to such a deal may yet be unknown – but that’s the path." 

One activist added: “I think there should be a referendum. A majority of SNP MSPs doesn’t mean a majority of the votes.”