THE SNP is set to move its spring conference back to the summer, in a move which has stunned party members.

One prominent long-term activist said he was worried this was an attempt to push back any debate on indyref2.

But the party insisted it was to allow an increase of “opportunities” for members to “help the party develop policy” at the new planned National Assemblies across the country.

Party members and delegates had assumed the annual event would have taken place in March or April, and had been preparing resolutions and submissions accordingly.

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Party member and veteran conference delegate Morgwn Davies told The National that despite a number of requests for the date on private SNP Facebook groups, including one for organisers, and another for conveners and secretaries, the party had been coy.

He said: “This is a failure of the SNP to communicate timeously with its grassroots members.

“This will not be well received and will possibly look like a means of pushing back any debate on the current impasse that has been reached in holding a Scottish independence referendum.

“This is something that should be debated fully at a national conference, sooner rather than later.

“The party membership needs to decide what courses of action are needed to bring about an independence referendum especially if there is any hope it will be this year as the SNP leader had stated is the intention.”

Councillor Chris McEleny warned that the party could lose out if Scotland beat Israel later this month and qualified for this summer’s Euro championships.

He said: “I’m not so sure we will maximise media coverage of the event if it clashes with the build up to Scotland’s first appearance at a major football tournament in 22 years, but I’m sure the people that make these decisions will have thought about that.”

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At the party’s last mass gathering in Aberdeen in October, delegates backed plans to expand the role of the National Assemblies, committing the party to hosting the events across the country.

SNP sources say this year that will mean a “clustering” of the “big national events of conference, assembly and the national executive to make sure the party is working in the most efficient way.”

Every member of the party is entitled to attend any meeting of the National Assembly, and the belief is that these will be big new events.

Kirsten Oswald, the SNP’s business convener, said it was an “exciting and historic time” for members.

She added: “2020 heralds an exciting new chapter for our member engagement, with five times as many opportunities to help the party develop policy and shape our strategy.”