THE SNP has confirmed a virtual discussion on alternative routes to independence will go ahead as planned later this month.

The National Assembly was announced at last year’s annual conference by depute leader Keith Brown, with delegates overwhelmingly backing a motion welcoming it.

It is being seen as an attempt to ease tensions within the party over the way forward for a second referendum if Boris Johnson continues to refuse to agree to a Section 30 order.

Writing in The National last week, SNP MP Joanna Cherry welcomed the discussion, saying while a majority vote in a referendum was the best way to achieve independence, there were alternative options.

She wrote: “On January 24, an SNP virtual National Assembly will take place to discuss ‘the tactics and strategy on the route from here to Independence Day’.

“SNP depute leader Keith Brown is to be commended for securing this important discussion which is open to all party members and will be conducted in private.

“A recent opinion poll suggested two-thirds of voters want a fall-back strategy to secure a second independence vote if a Section 30 order is refused this time round.”

Earlier this month, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reiterated her Government’s commitment to a “legal, constitutional rule to becoming an independent state”.

Some parts of the party want to see more done to establish alternatives if her preferred route of having a Section 30 order granted by Westminster and then holding a referendum continues to be blocked by Johnson.

Shortly after he was elected as SNP president last year, Michael Russell insisted the Government would not only have a Plan B to secure independence, but a “Plan A to Z”.

“If the people of Scotland vote for something they must have it. The role of the SNP is if they vote for the SNP to deliver it, then the SNP must deliver it,” he said.

“So therefore we will find a way to deliver it and I think we just don’t need Plan B, we need Plan A to Z and we have lots of ideas to do with that.”

But he added: “I’m not sure if it helps anybody if we start on saying ‘well if he does this, we’ll do that and if he then does this, then we’ll do this’. It’s self-defeating.”

Last week professor Sir John Curtice said while the SNP should have a plan B on what to do if Westminster continues to refuse consent for indyref2, it should not be revealed before May.

He said: “You don’t want to declare it and equally of course after May, if the SNP get their overall majority, the UK Government will have to think about the best way of playing it and simply saying ‘no’ may not be the best way.

“It is in the interests of both sides to be economical with the truth between now and May but certainly both sides need to have a Plan B.”