MICHAEL Russell is expected to update the SNP’s ruling body today on a new campaign being undertaken to move the independence cause forward.

The SNP president was appointed last month as the political director of the party’s independence unit tasked with “firing up” the Yes movement.

The unit was established in January, with depute leader Keith Brown saying it would create policy papers and materials to advance the movement.

Ahead of today’s meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC), the SNP distributed a new eight-page leaflet on the Yes.scot website on Thursday entitled “Your right to decide how Scotland recovers”.

It consolidated the arguments for independence in the context of Brexit and the pandemic.

The move comes amid criticism among some in the party and wider Yes movement that not enough was being done to progress matters as polls have recorded a dip among Scots favouring independence from a record 58% high over some periods last year to 48% last month.

Top pollster Professor Sir John Curtice warned last month the SNP could not risk letting the constitutional debate “be off the boil for long” amid sliding indy support: “The party needs to embark on a campaign to persuade more Scots of the merits of independence,” he said.

“Otherwise, Ms Sturgeon might find herself stuck with a promise to hold a referendum that she has little hope of winning.”

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Penned by Russell, who stepped down as MSP for Argyll and Bute ahead of the Holyrood election in May, the SNP’s new glossy booklet considers that the UK lags behind many small countries in terms of wealth, happiness, fairness and health.

It says: “Evidence shows that compared to the UK, neighbouring independent countries of similar size to Scotland: 

  • Have higher levels of productivity – a key driver of living standards.
  • Have higher pensions, as a proportion of pre-retirement wages.
  • Are more equal.
  • Are wealthier per head.

“In fact, the evidence shows that the UK tends to come bottom of the league table of north-west European countries in terms of economic performance.”

It adds: “The UK isn’t keeping up with the Joneses, the Jensens, the Johansens, the Jacques or the Joyces. The happier, healthier and wealthier tables show how countries similar to Scotland in the real equal partnership of the Nordic Council are thriving.

“In contrast, the national wealth and income inequality tables show how deeply unequal the UK is in relation to our north-west European neighbours – even before the pandemic hit. An independent Scotland in equal partnership with its neighbours.”

The leaflet recommits to an independent Scotland joining the European Union, underlining how much larger the European single market is to trade in the UK alone.

It also stresses how independence would enable money to be spent on Scotland’s priorities – and not those of a Westminster government.

“As an independent member of the EU we’ll be inside the huge European Single Market, which is seven times the size of the UK,” it states.

“We’ll be spending money on Scotland’s priorities, not Westminster’s.

“The cost of Trident replacement has been estimated at £205 billion.

“The cost of refurbishing the House of Lords and Westminster has been predicted to be up to £20 billion.”

On the EU, the leaflet looks at how the Irish economy was boosted by membership of the bloc and suggests Scotland would benefit in a similar way.

“Ireland was both heavily dependent on the UK and was also a lot poorer,” it says.

“Now its trade with the UK is just a fraction of the trade it does with the EU and the rest of the world and Ireland is substantially wealthier. If Ireland can do it, why not Scotland?”

It adds: “As a European Union member, we can act as a bridge between the UK and the EU.”

The push comes after the SNP won a record fourth term in government at the May election.

Along with the Greens, Holyrood has a pro-independence majority.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she wants a new referendum to be held by the end of 2023 so long as the Covid crisis has passed.

Before the election, she underlined dealing with the pandemic was the key priority for her new government.

But in recent weeks some Yes supporters and SNP figures such as the MP Joanna Cherry have said not enough is being done to progress the independence cause.