ALEX Salmond has raised doubts over whether the Scottish Government can meet its timetable to deliver a second independence referendum by 2023 as he reflected on the process he embarked on ahead of the first vote.

The former First Minister told The National that work on the 650-page prospectus on the case for independence began in May 2011 – more than three years before the referendum on September 18, 2014.

Nicola Sturgeon said in September she would be instructing civil servants to draw up on new prospectus as she restated her intention to hold a referendum by the end of 2023 pandemic permitting.

However, a draft agenda for the SNP annual conference in November includes little of significance on the updated case in light of the post Brexit or pandemic world changes. A single motion on a demand for an open border has been lodged to reflect the changes that have taken place in UK and geopolitics over the last seven years.

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“In the run up to the 2014 referendum a comprehensive White Paper was placed before the people of Scotland setting out the potential of an independent Scotland,” Salmond, who now leads the Alba Party, told The National.

Scotland’s Future was released nearly a year before the poll and the preparation was underway just as soon as we secured the overall majority in 2011.

“In contrast there is currently no sign whatsoever of the essential ground work having been done or any willingness to accommodate the substantive political and world changes since 2014.”

He added: “Despite national independence for Scotland being more important now than ever, especially if we want to ensure that we choose the policies to recover from Covid, there is no sign of any urgency at all on the constitutional question.”

Salmond went on to urge the SNP to “lead the charge” on making progress on achieving independence.

He said all parties should be involved in discussions on a way forward to reflect the process ahead of the 2014 vote when the SNP, Greens, Scottish Socialist Party and Labour supporters of independence were involved.

“Scotland’s independence is bigger than any one party, this was a key lesson we learned in 2014,” he said.

“The prospectus for an independent Scotland should be formed from the input of those of all parties and none. However, it is incumbent on the party of government to lead the charge and get on with the job.”

EU membership and what type of border will exist between an independent Scotland and the UK are among the most significant changes facing the SNP as the party updates their independence case from 2014.

Seven years ago, Scotland with the rest of the UK was part of the European Union with the argument then based on whether the new country would be allowed to join with the No side highlighting opposition from European politicians, including the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who has said it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible” for an independent Scotland to join the EU.

With the UK no longer an EU member there is now a new openness to Scotland joining, though official Brussels say the situation is hypothetical as only independent nations can join. But Brexit has the potential to create a hard border between an independent Scotland in the EU and England as Brussels may want to protect its single market

and demand customs checks between the two.

With Northern Ireland having closer EU alignment on good standards, the border across the Irish Sea has the potential to be softer.

As The National revealed yesterday, delegates to the SNP’s conference next month are to demand “seamless trade” between the UK and an independent Scotland, though no update on the timing of indyref2 is to be debated.

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.

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“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.

“Conference also agrees 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.

Ahead of the May election, Alba backed an independent Scotland joining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), whose members include Norway. The party say this could provide access to the single market, while maintaining the common travel area and keep the opportunity to create a customs union with the rest of the UK.

The SNP conference will take place from November 26 to 29 and will be held online.