THE SNP is ramping up the drive for independence with the creation of a dedicated taskforce to lay the groundwork for a new Yes campaign.

The party’s campaign director Keith Brown said the group would bring together strategic direction and expertise which is the “final piece in the jigsaw” to help deliver independence.

A “high-profile” campaigner to head the taskforce is expected to be announced in the next few days, which Brown said will “fire up” the wider Yes movement.

The objective of the group will be to lay the foundations of the indyref2 campaign before the Scottish Parliament elections due to take place in May, the SNP said.

This will include publishing a series of policy papers to build the case for an independent Scotland and creating materials for Yes campaigners.

According to the latest poll, more than half of Scots – 52% – believe a fresh vote on leaving the UK should take place within five years or before.

The announcement of the taskforce comes ahead of members gathering next week for a key National Assembly to discuss the way forward to a second referendum.

Brown, who is also the SNP’s depute leader, said: “Our Independence Taskforce at SNP headquarters will be welcomed by party members and grassroots Yes activists across the country. I really believe that when I make the appointment it will also fire up the wider Yes movement.”

The head of the taskforce will work with existing SNP headquarters staff and strategists across the party, with more staff to be added if the party achieves successful results inHolyrood in May.

As well as drawing up policy papers and putting together resources for campaigners, the group will work to establish a national information service to help people make an “informed choice” on independence.

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Brown added: “The staff at SNP HQ do an amazing job, with a huge membership to look after.

“On top of the vast amount of administrative, member care and support work they have been putting on world-class events, off and now online, as well leading on digital political messaging – and of course coordinating campaigns that have won numerous elections.

“And now we’re ramping things up. The Independence Taskforce will bring strategic direction and expertise which I believe is the final piece in the jigsaw that will help deliver independence.”    Welcoming the announcement, SNP activist and independence campaigner Julie Hepburn said: “This is great news from Keith, which will be welcomed across the party.

“I’m really excited to hear more about who will head up our new Independence Taskforce and I understand that could be in the coming days.”  During the 2014 referendum, pro-independence parties including the SNP, the Scottish Greens and the Scottish Socialist Party worked together under the umbrella organisation Yes Scotland.

It attracted support from high-profile names such as Sir Sean Connery and Brian Cox, produced a Yes Declaration, which was backed by one million signatures from across Scotland, and grew into a huge grassroots movement.

THE virtual National Assembly on the topic of “The Route to Independence – tactics and strategy for campaigning” will take place next Sunday.

There have been 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.

Opposition parties say the SNP should be focusing on the pandemic instead of independence, but Deputy First Minister John Swinney last week said a fresh referendum is a “critical response” to Covid.

He added: “It would give us an opportunity to decide on our constitutional future and to determine the nature of our economy and the way we deal with and support our citizens.”