An independent Scotland may hold a referendum on the European Union under plans currently being considered by the SNP as the party draws up its new prospectus for indyref2, The National can reveal.

The proposal to hold a vote on the terms of a membership deal negotiated between the new state and the EU was discussed at a seminar for activists earlier this week.

It is backed by the party’s policy convener Toni Giugliano, who organised the online event, and who has previously spoke in favour of what is sometimes called a “confirmatory referendum”.

Party president Michael Russell is open to the proposal.

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SNP supporters of the proposal see it as a way of appealing to Euro-sceptics who are pro-independence ahead of a second independence vote.

They also argue it would give additional democratic legitimacy to the decision to join the EU post independence in particular because of the passage of time between a Yes vote and completed EU membership negotiations. Experts have said this proces could take around seven years.

However, it could be controversial among some Remain supporting Yessers who could see it as a further obstacle to EU entry.

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In addition First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said ahead of the Holyrood election that she does not plan to hold a EU referendum if Scotland becomes independent.

She told journalists in April last year that it would be assumed that Scots want an independent Scotland to join the EU.

The National: Nicola Sturgeon has previously said that she does not plan to hold an EU referendum after independenceNicola Sturgeon has previously said that she does not plan to hold an EU referendum after independence

This plan would effectively make indyref2 a double referendum, with a vote for independence taken as a vote in favour of EU membership as well.

The current SNP policy on Europe was decided at its conference in 2016 and simply restates its commitment for an independent Scotland to be a full EU member. It does not mention whether there should be a EU referendum following independence.

During the online seminar with SNP activists on Wednesday evening, Russell discussed the EU referendum proposal, as did Dr Kirsty Hughes, an independent expert on Europe, who supports a new EU vote.

The National: SNP president Michael RussellSNP president Michael Russell

Speaking to The National, Russell confirmed a referendum on the EU deal was “one option” being considered in the party.

“That is one option,” he said. “Countries that join the EU have to show they are willing to do so.

"You can do that by means of an election in which that is the policy of the government that is elected or by means of a referendum but the people have to show that they want to join ... I wouldn’t be worried whether it was a referendum or an election. All you need to do is to show that the people want that to happen.”

Russell added that the main point the First Minister had made last April was that the issue was one of the people’s consent.

The National: SNP policy convener Toni GiuglianoSNP policy convener Toni Giugliano

Giugliano argued the central SNP policy of independence in Europe was unchanged and he was confident Scots would back rejoining the EU if a referendum was held.

“As democrats we would want to take the people of Scotland with us. I have no doubt that with Scotland having voted 62% to remain in the EU they would want to rejoin the European Union and escape the disaster of Brexit,” he said.

“But we should as democrats set out an approach where we want to take Scotland with us and do that through a referendum.”

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Pressed what the SNP would say to opponents who could attack it for pursuing “too many referendums” or a “neverendum”, he said: “These are big constitutional questions and it is fair to have an referendum on such matters.”

He added: “But these are the questions for when we become independent. We need to be clear to the electorate right now is that we will seek to rejoin the EU as an independent country to escape the disaster of Brexit. That is the clear message.”

Hughes, a prominent expert on Europe and the founder of the former think tank the Scottish Centre on European Relations, said most countries which had joined the EU in recent years had done so after a referendum. She pointed to Bulgaria as an exception.

She told the National: “A referendum after negotiations to confirm public support is typical, not obligatory, and a very good idea. As we’ve seen with Brexit, being part in the EU permeates so many aspects of an country’s political, social, cultural, economic life. So you would want to make sure there is genuine public support and nobody is saying it is an elite’s [decision].”

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EU membership negotiations may take could take four years, Hughes has said, but could only start after preliminary talks and once Scotland is independent from the UK.

Around 200 SNP activists took part in the online seminar aimed at preparing members with messages to take to undecided voters as the party ramp up preparations for a second indepdendence referendum, which the First Minister has said she intends to hold next year.

The event heard an independent Scotland could strike an Association Agreement with the EU, while membership talks take place.

This agreement could include access to the single market and membership of the Erasmus exchange scheme for students as well a membership of policing agency Europol.

With the UK Government opposed to agreeing indyref2, Scottish ministers plan to hold it by the end of 2023 using legislation in Holyrood.

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