ONE of the SNP's main campaigners for a so-called Plan B route to independence has called for his party go "be bolder" after it drew up alternative proposals should Boris Johnson continue to refuse a second referendum.

Chris McEleny's comments come as a new plan for indyref2 was unveiled by Constitution Secretary Michael Russell yesterday, who said that there will be a referendum if Scotland votes for pro-independence parties at the Holyrood election in May.

Russell's proposal was discussed at a online National Assembly held today by the party, in which around 1000 SNP members took part. It was chaired by SNP deputy leader Keith Brown.

The SNP leadership say that after this May’s election, should the pro-independence parties win, the Scottish Government would request again make a section 30 order request to the UK Government to transfer powers to Holyrood to hold the referendum, but if this were give denied the SNP would introduce, and pass a bill, so that the necessary arrangements for a referendum can be made and implemented. 

However, McEleny has said that the SNP must set Johnson a deadline of before the election to agree to a referendum so that “ another mandate is not wasted".

He wants the Scottish Government to set Johnson a deadline to agree to a Section 30 order - the process to agree a referendum- of March 31.

If the UK Government doesn't agree to a referendum, McEleny says then it must not be ruled out that this May’s election is in itself turned into a referendum on Scottish independence, with a pro independence majority being seen as a mandate to enter into independence negotiations with the UK Government. 

The Plan B advocate believes that his party are not being bold enough and are giving Johnson too much opportunity to block people in Scotland being able to express their choice in favour of Scottish independence. 

Speaking after deliberations at the SNP’s National Assembly today, McEleny said: "It is welcome that the party has finally conceded that the strategy of relying on Boris Johnson’s permission to hold an independence referendum was not going to work. 

"The Scottish Government must progress with a referendum bill now, setting Boris Johnson a deadline to agree to a section 30 order before the election.

"Why wait until after the election to ask his permission, again, when we already have several mandates to hold an independence referendum, and we know he will say No?

"A parliamentary majority exists now that can pass a bill, so that the necessary arrangements for a referendum can be made and implemented."

He added: "In order that the outcome of this year's election allows the case for Scottish independence to be progressed, as opposed to another mandate being stored in the trophy cabinet at the party’s HQ, we must now seize the initiative. 

“The opportunity to turn May’s election into a de-facto referendum must not be squandered, or ruled out, especially if it may be the only opportunity to test the independence question for many years to come.” 

The National revealed the SNP's "roadmap to a referendum" on independence on Saturday, setting out how they intend to take forward their plans for a second vote.

Russell presented the 11-point document to the party's discussion forum this afternoon.

It says a "legal referendum" will be held after the pandemic if there is a pro-independence majority following May's election.

The roadmap states any attempt by the UK Government to challenge the legality of the referendum in the courts will be "vigorously opposed".

A Section 30 order - part of the Scotland Act 1998 which allows Holyrood to pass laws normally reserved to Westminster - was granted by the UK Government ahead of the 2014 independence referendum.

Russell said the UK Government could either agree that Holyrood already has the power to hold a second referendum or agree to a Section 30 order - something he said would put the question of legality "beyond any doubt".

Johnson has repeatedly stated his opposition to a second independence referendum.

As the roadmap document was published yesterday, Russell said: "I firmly believe that Scotland's referendum must be beyond legal challenge to ensure legitimacy and acceptance at home and abroad.

"This is the surest way by far to becoming an independent country.

"The referendum should be held after the pandemic, at a time to be decided by the democratically elected Scottish Parliament. The SNP believes that should be in the early part of the new term."

He continued: "Today I am setting out how I believe that right can be secured, and I welcome the discussion that will take place around this idea and others.

"But what is absolutely not for discussion is the fact that if Scotland votes for a legal referendum on May 6 this year, that is what it will get.

"The SNP Scottish Government will deliver such a referendum if re-elected and the proposals I am putting forward make that very clear."

Opposition parties have responded angrily to the roadmap's publication, accusing the SNP of putting the push for independence ahead of the coronavirus pandemic.

Scottish Labour interim leader Jackie Baillie said: "Scotland is deep in turmoil with thousands facing a cost of living crisis and thousands more people being lost to the virus.

"It is inexcusable that at this time of acute crisis the SNP seeks to put its plan for independence above everything else.

"The people of Scotland are being badly let down by an incompetent UK Government and a Scottish Government that seeks to exploit the current crisis for its own ends.

"To turn your back on those most in need by banging the drum for another independence referendum is an act of political hubris and is truly revealing of the Scottish Government's true priorities."

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross tweeted: "When 100% of our focus should be on recovering from the pandemic, the SNP are charging ahead with plans for another referendum. We won't let them get their way."

Responding to the SNP's document, the UK Government said the issue of Scottish independence had been settled "decisively" in 2014.

A spokeswoman said: "People in Scotland want to see politicians across the UK working in partnership to focus on defeating coronavirus.

"That remains the top priority of the UK Government, which has supported jobs and businesses across all four nations throughout the pandemic.

"The Government is supporting the devolved administrations in their vaccination programmes, with the British Armed Forces helping to establish 80 new Covid-19 vaccine centres in Scotland.

"The question of Scottish independence was settled decisively in 2014, when Scotland voted to remain part of the UK.

"Now more than ever, we should be pulling together to strengthen our United Kingdom, instead of trying to separate it."