SNP campaigners are pressing party bosses for answers over their independence taskforce, claiming “its future is unclear”.

The team was unveiled by party leaders in January. At the time, depute leader Keith Brown told the Sunday National it would create policy papers and campaign materials to “fire up” the wider Yes movement.

That announcement came around 100 days before the May 6 election. Taking in existing headquarters staff and strategists, the SNP’s taskforce was boosted by the recruitment of former local government and community empowerment minister Marco Biagi as a consultant. The party said further hires would be made in the event of success at the Scottish Parliament election.

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After two days of counting, the SNP won a record share of the vote and secured an unprecedented fourth term in office as Scots again returned a majority of pro-independence MSPs.

This, both the SNP and Greens say, shows a clear mandate for the delivery of a fresh referendum when the time is right.

But this week Biagi (below) announced he’s left his post and it’s not known who will replace him, or when additional staff will join the team.

The National:

Now, less than one month after the ballot box success, the SNP’s left-leaning Common Weal Group (CWG) has raised questions about the independence unit’s progress.

In a statement, its national executive committee (NEC) told the Sunday National: “We are concerned that members have been given no updates on the unit’s progress on developing the strategy and case for independence since it was established in January 2021. This undermines members’ confidence in its work. The unit’s future is now unclear as its only appointee leaves his post.

“While the Scottish Government rightly focuses on Scotland’s Covid recovery, the SNP must lay the groundwork for an independence campaign that will set out a clear and comprehensive case for Scotland’s future as an independent nation.

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“The full powers of independence are crucial to Scotland’s recovery from the pandemic and our resilience to challenges like the climate crisis. The SNP Common Weal Group brought forward a proposal in December 2020 to form a working group of members from across the party to build consensus on independence strategy and prepare for an independence campaign. This proposal was rejected by the SNP NEC in favour of establishing the independence unit.

“Given the importance of the work in the unit’s remit, we hope to see the party set out how it will continue very soon. We will now work cooperatively to ensure our proposal for a member-led working group is reconsidered by the SNP NEC.”

On Wednesday, Biagi tweeted: “Back in January I was brought on by SNP HQ as a consultant on independence groundwork. This is just public information that I’m now choosing to move on from that post. It was a pleasure to be asked to work with the party again and I look forward to helping again in future.”

The Sunday National asked the SNP who will now take the role of campaign strategist, if further appointments are made and in what timeframe, and what SNP members can expect to see from the taskforce over the next six months. A spokesperson said: “Earlier this month the SNP secured a historic fourth consecutive victory in the Scottish elections, with a second referendum as a cornerstone of our manifesto.

“With a new ministerial team in place – headed by Angus Robertson – the First Minister has made clear that we will exercise that mandate with responsibility, humility, and only when the crisis of Covid has passed.

“The party has committed to kickstart the grassroots campaign and ramp up preparations for a second referendum over the second half of 2021 and that’s exactly what we will now do. We are grateful for Marco’s input in getting us to this point.”

The intervention by the CWG – which was formed last year to make Scotland “greener, fairer and healthier” – comes as it regroups after several members defected to the Alba Party before the election.

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They include founder Craig Berry, former MP George Kerevan and councillor Lynne Anderson, who was latterly the SNP’s equalities convener. In a joint statement, Berry and Kerevan described the SNP as “unreformable” and said they were switching in order to “seek to build a left-wing, progressive wing of the independence movement”.

The National:

Rory Steel and Catriona MacDonald (above) are now acting as interim co-conveners following Berry’s departure. At the time, the CWG stated: “We are proud that in our first year, many of our policy priorities have been adopted into the SNP manifesto, including a National Care Service, nationalised rail and housing reform. We will work to deliver an SNP majority in May and make these ideas reality.

“We understand that many members feel frustrated about aspects of strategy and governance within the party. We believe this can and must be addressed through dialogue and building grassroots power. Our commitment to the causes of radical independence and democracy remains unwavering. The SNP CWG calls on all our supporters to stay in the SNP and work with us to make change happen. Together we will deliver independence.”