A FRONTBENCH MP has called for the indyref2 date to be set, regardless of poll figures.

Addressing a rally outside the Scottish Parliament, SNP’s Westminster constitutional affairs spokesperson Tommy Sheppard predicted a date will be set in spring.

He said the move should not depend on opinion poll results – due to the Scottish Government’s mandate – and that the announcement will “galvanise” the movement and trigger the positive campaigning he believes will bring more over to Yes.

The Edinburgh East MP said the movement needs “a million ambassadors” to take up the cause.

The SNP and Scottish Greens have both stated their intention to bring forwards a fresh ballot on the country’s membership of the Union.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged that she’d spend the first 100 days of this parliamentary term focused on Covid recovery. That period has now passed and she has repeatedly said that while she is committed to staging a new vote, emergence from the pandemic remains her government’s “top priority”.

That term was used earlier this week to describe the immediate focus on the Covid vaccine programme.

After the May 6 result which returned a larger pro-independence majority than in 2016, Sturgeon said it was “the will of the country” to have the chance “to choose our own future”.

During his speech, made after the March for an Independent Scotland event through the capital, Sheppard said coronavirus had made for a “long, difficult year” and that the mandate upon which the Scottish Government was elected means it “cannot do anything other than have a referendum”.

He said: “It is not a question of if – it is a question of when.”

Describing Covid as a “catastrophe”, he added: “We have lost many friends and relatives along the way and that pandemic, as you can see from the news today, is not yet in the rear view mirror.

“That has constrained us – I don’t want to argue about the future of my country over a Zoom screen.

“I want to be able to look people in the eye and talk to them and convince them about the benefits of becoming an independent country. So I want this pandemic behind us so we are able once again to come out and campaign in the way we did so wonderfully in 2012 to 2014.

“But I believe that will come and I believe that as we go forward into the spring we will set the timetable for another independence referendum.

“It’s not a matter of waiting for when the opinion polls are at a certain height. We don’t do that. We have to set a date and when we set a date I believe that will galvanise our movement.

“It will re-energise people and it will give them something to aim for and they will once again rally to the call in the way they did in 2012.”

Describing the arguments for change as “powerful”, he warned opponents would “try and demonise the movement”, telling the crowd: “There are still many people that do not understand them and that do not agree with them.

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“They are yet to be convinced and we are now in a two-year period where we will have to try to make sure that they are convinced and brought to our side.

“We need a million ambassadors for these arguments. We need to reach out to people and explain to them that the reason why we want independence is not about the icons and the symbols of Scottishness, it’s not about flags or emblems. We have them in abundance. What we don’t have is the democratic power over our own lives and that is what independence gives us.”

Sheppard continued: “Even on a bad day the polls show that public opinion is evenly divided before the campaign even starts.

“This is all to play for and this something that we are going to win.”

The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.