DELEGATES to the SNP's conference next month are to demand "seamless trade" between the UK and an independent Scotland, but no update on the timing of indyref2 is to be debated at the event.

Nicola Sturgeon has said she wants a new vote to take place before the end of 2023 so long as the Covid pandemic has passed, yet Boris Johnson has refused to agree.

His refusal prompted the First Minister earlier this month to say that "time is on her side" and that "concrete decisions" on the referendum would be made in early spring.

A resolution seen by The National on the provisional agenda for the SNP conference, being held online from November 26 to 29, reaffirms an independent Scotland joining the EU and calls for "seamless trade" between the UK and an independent Scotland.

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It also calls for the Scottish and UK governments to "strive to reach an agreement" which will allow for seamless trade following any Yes vote.

"Conference acknowledges that Scotland has always been a trading nation and conference agrees that an independent Scotland will seek to re-join the EU, the largest free trade block in the world, in order to access free markets and increase trade with our nearest neighbours," it says. 

"Whilst negotiating our renewed membership of the European Union as an independent nation, conference welcomes the Scottish Government’s position that Scotland will remain part of the Common Travel Area just as Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Channel islands and British Overseas Territories are and conference continues to support the free movement of people, goods and services, with seamless trade between Scotland and the rest of the UK, and with the European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Authority (EFTA)." 

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It adds: "Conference also agrees that the Scottish Government and UK Government should strive to reach an agreement which will allow for seamless trade between Scotland and the rest of the UK. 

"Conference notes, following Scotland’s vote to become an normal independent country, that the Scottish Government will enter into negotiations with the UK Government and European Union over customs and freedom of movement arrangements between Scotland and the UK, given Scotland’s prospective role as a European Union land border with the England and Wales. 

"Conference recognises that trade between Scotland and the UK and trade between Scotland and the EU and EFTA is important to Scotland’s economy. Conference reaffirms the importance of Scotland taking a progressive, outward looking and international approach to relations with all nations under independence, particularly with our closest neighbours, the UK and EU and EFTA in line with every normal independent country in the world."

The motion has been backed by a number of MSPs in the south of Scotland and the Borders including Emma Harper (below with Nicola Sturgeon) and Christine Grahame. It is also supported by several councillors and party branches in West Dumfries, Newton Stewart and Annadale and Eskdale.

The National:

The issue of cross-Border trade between an independent Scotland and the UK is a key issues in the constitutional debate post-Brexit.

Some 60% of Scotland’s exports are to the rest of the UK (£51.2 billion in 2018), according to a Scottish Parliament briefing paper, while the EU is the most valuable international export region for Scotland accounting for 48% of all international goods and service exports, worth £16bn in 2018.

Opponents say a "hard border with England" would be "dreadful for trade" and the Scottish economy.

But the SNP want a "frictionless" border similar to that between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and also stress the potential of Scotland growing its exports to the EU market - which is ten times larger than the UK's.

The SNP won a record fourth term in government in Edinburgh in May after standing on a platform to hold a second independence referendum and in her programme for government the First Minister announced she would be instructing civil servants to update her government's independence prospectus that was paused at the outbreak of the pandemic in March last year.

However, with the end of 2023 just over two years away there is frustration among some independence supporters over whether the Scottish Government is doing enough to ensure the vote takes place.

The First Minister has she is prepared to fight the UK Government in court if necessary to hold a vote, though it is uncertain whether Scottish ministers would win a legal battle over Holyrood legislation to underpin indyref2.

Earlier this month, Alister Jack, the Secretary of State for Scotland, said Downing Street would only consent to a new vote in 25 years, and only then if polls consistently showed that 60% of Scots supported one.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Sturgeon said: “I can’t look ahead and tell you exactly how this constitutional impasse is going to resolve itself, but it will resolve itself - and it will resolve itself on the side of democracy because actually, the alternative is pretty unthinkable.

“I’ve got democracy on my side … if they think it’s about playing a waiting game, I’ve probably got time on my side as well. You look at the demographics of the support for independence – well, I’m not sure that’s going to get you out of this conundrum.”

She later added: “If you’re saying that there is no legitimate, democratic, constitutional route for Scotland to choose independence, where does that leave us?” she asked. “The union suddenly is no longer what it has always been, a voluntary, consensual union of nations.”

The National:

The First Minister said “concrete decisions” around timing could be expected in the new year.

She told the paper: “As we come out of this winter into the spring — with, I hope, a lot more certainty about the Covid situation being a bit more in the rear-view mirror — we start to take more concrete decisions around all of this.”

The SNP plan is to again request a Section 30 order from the UK Government to devolve the powers necessary to allow a legally watertight vote.

If, as expected, Downing Street reject that request, the Scottish Government and the pro-independence majority in the parliament will then introduce and pass a bill so that the “necessary arrangements for the referendum can be made and implemented.” That would almost certainly lead to a legal challenge.

In early October the Supreme Court ruled that Holyrood had legislated beyond its powers with new children’s rights and local government laws.

Judges knocked down the law because of the imposition of duties on UK ministers and UK parliament legislation. They said that a section of the Scotland Act preserved the unqualified power of the UK parliament to make laws for Scotland.