A NICOLA Sturgeon ally has said a de-facto referendum would be “more likely” to lead to a plebiscite rather than triggering talks to end the Union.

Mhairi Hunter, who is the organiser for the First Minister’s SNP branch in Glasgow, said a victory for pro-Yes parties in the next General Election would not necessarily begin separation negotiations – but could be the basis for a referendum.

Alba have hit out at the suggestion and demanded clarity on what the SNP think the purpose of a de-facto referendum is.

During an interaction with independence campaigner Jonathon Shafi on Thursday, Hunter was asked: “What do you think will happen after the next election if the SNP win a massive popular vote?”

She replied: “We start negotiations on independence or, probably more likely, an agreed referendum.”

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There is disagreement within the SNP about how to execute the de-facto referendum strategy – dubbed by some campaigners as Plan B.

Angus MacNeil, the SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, told The National on Wednesday that not only could the next Holyrood election be used as the basis for the de-facto referendum but that it could be used to secure independence without winning more than half of the popular vote.

He said: “The only thing that is within the SNP’s control and within the Scottish Government’s control is to call a Holyrood election early because we can’t have a referendum now but we could have a Holyrood election in or around the time we were planning to have a referendum anyway.”

He added: “I’d say Yes having more than the other side, it’s what usually wins elections and that’s how matters are decided in any democracy.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has previously said pro-Yes parties must secure at least 51% of the popular vote in Scotland to enter the next stage in the battle for independence – a number never previously achieved by the SNP.

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Sturgeon announced on Wednesday less than two hours after the Supreme Court blocked indyref2 there would be an emergency SNP conference in the new year to hash out the party’s official stance on fighting the next election as a de-facto referendum.

Figures such as MacNeil will call on the party’s high command to call an early Holyrood election – and he took to social media to scold the “arrogance” of the party’s leadership, which he accused of failing to grasp the chance to refine the Plan B strategy in the past.

Chris McEleny, Alba's general secretary, said: "Clarity is required on what the SNP think a defacto referendum is.

"If the referendum strategy route - which has been the centre of the national cause since the formation of the Scottish Parliament - is to be abandoned then a majority at an election must not be yet another mandate to ask Westminster for a referendum, as suggested by Ms Hunter, but it should be a mandate to declare independence."

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Speaking to The National, Hunter said: “It could result in either outcome. An agreed referendum is the SNP's preferred option but if UK Government continues to say no then the next opportunity to achieve a majority of votes for independence will be the General Election.

“With a successful outcome the Scottish Government will open talks with the UK Government on achieving independence.

“The UK Government might agree to start negotiating terms or they might say they wished to see an agreed referendum take place. 

“I don't think anybody can predict exactly what would happen.

“My personal view would be that [the UK Government] would probably want to see a further process but that's just a guess.

“I think it is silly and unhelpful for Alba to jump on a conversation on Twitter to misrepresent it.

“People in the Yes movement need to be able to discuss things freely and openly like adults.”