THE SNP has stepped up planning for an indyref2 vote next year, promising to deliver a new report on how independence can “end poverty, tackle inequality and improve the lives of families across Scotland” in time for an autumn campaign.

Nicola Sturgeon is expected to request powers for a second referendum before the end of the year and has said that she wants a vote in the second half of next year.

The Scottish Government is currently steering a Referendums Bill through Holyrood.

Yesterday it was revealed that former health secretary Shona Robison has been appointed to chair the party’s new Social Justice and Fairness Commission.

Sturgeon announced the forming of the body at the SNP spring conference earlier this year, telling delegates that its role would be to show how independence from the UK could reduce poverty and inequality in Scotland.

In her closing speech, the First Minister said the commission would show how the proceeds of economic growth under independence could be shared “much more fairly”.

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The party body was also seen as an attempt to rebut some of the criticism of Andrew Wilson’s Growth Commission report. Both political opponents – and a fair number of party members – had attacked Wilson’s calls for tighter spending controls to bring down the deficit after independence.

Labour repeatedly describes the Growth Commission as a “cuts commission” which would lead to “a decade of unprecedented austerity”.

Members of the new commission will include retired Scottish chief medical officer Professor Sir Harry Burns, activist and campaigner Chelsea Cameron, former convener of the Scottish Women’s Budget Group Dr Angela O’Hagan and Govan Law Centre principal solicitor and ex-Labour campaigner Mike Dailly (below).

Former health secretary Shona Robison will chair the commission

Robison told The National that the commission would “explore in detail how we can use the powers of independence to end poverty, tackle inequality and improve the lives of families across Scotland”.

She added: “That’s a crucial task – both for persuading people of the case for independence, and for building a better country once we achieve it.”

The SNP said the commission would be expected to produce a report in time for the proposals to form part of an autumn 2020 referendum campaign.

Meanwhile, Downing Street has been accused of being “too complacent” about a second independence referendum.

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A senior Whitehall official told the Scotsman about a lack of “panic” at the most senior levels over the strengthening trend in polling on Scottish independence.

A dossier of Scottish coverage of the Ashcroft opinion poll – conducted in the wake of Johnson’s first visit as Prime Minister to Scotland showing independence in the lead for the first time in two and a half years – was sent to Number 10 by former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson.

Asked if there was panic in Downing Street, the paper’s source said: “There isn’t nearly enough panic.”

The paper also said Johnson had come to an agreement with Scottish Tories not to comment on what conditions would “trigger” permission for a second independence referendum.