STEPHEN Flynn has backed the next Westminster General Election as a de facto referendum on independence – batting away the suggestion of dissolving Holyrood as unreasonable.

The new SNP Westminster leader has come out in favour of fighting the next UK-wide poll on the single issue of independence after the party’s ruling body put forward two options for members to debate at their upcoming special conference on the topic in March.

Flynn said the Westminster poll would allow the SNP to put forward a vision of “hope” for Scottish voters which he claimed gave his party an advantage over opponents.

He acknowledged that the received wisdom held that a Holyrood vote – with its broader electorate because younger people and foreign nationals are allowed to vote – would likely benefit the independence movement but said using the next Westminster election would better allow the SNP to put forward a positive vision for Scotland’s future.

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Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Show, presented by Martin Geissler, Flynn said: “Well of couse, like all of my colleagues, I’ve been considering this matter over many weeks and many months, and I’ve very much come to the conclusion, as things stand, that a Westminster General Election is the best option for us and I’ll explain why if that’s okay.

“It’s primarily focused on hope. We need to offer the people of Scotland – sooner rather than later – the opportunity to do things better, to do things differently.

“We know going into that next General Election, the Conservatives are going to be led in all likelihood either by Rishi Sunak or by Boris Johnson if he does make a comeback, but we know the damage they’ve done over the course of the last 13 years.”

He outlined the grim economic forecasts for the UK under the management of the Tories, which include predictions the country will experience the most painful recession of the world’s wealthiest democracies.

Challenged on whether the SNP was allowing the independence question to “deflate” by presenting the option of waiting until the next Scottish parliament elections in 2026, Flynn replied: “There’s obviously a broad range of views within the party and indeed within the independence movement as to what comes next.

“I think it’s healthy for any political party to have a democratic debate – which we will do – about where we intend to go in relation to our next steps in relation to independence.”

He added: “I don’t think that collapsing Holyrood is a reasonable position to take and obviously there would be huge consequences to do that, which have been outlined by many of my colleagues. I think where the discussion is whether the franchise, where it sits in relation to the Holyrood election, would be preferential to the franchise for a Westminster election.

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“Younger people voting, foreign nationals being able to vote – there’s obviously an understanding there that electorally that may well – and there’s no presumptions being made here – that may well be something that helps the independence movement.

“But I think we need to reflect when we’re having this discussion, on the fact that we even need to do this, that the people of Scotland voted for a majority of members of the Scottish Parliament who are of course in favour of a second independence referendum, the UK Government has said that they’re not going to respect that mandate.

“That mandate which is replicating the mandate that has came in previous elections as well. The UK Supreme Court says that we have no other way to determine our own future through a democratic referendum, so we have to go through this, which I think is very unfortunate.

“I think if the First Minister, or the Scottish National Party’s NEC had gone to conference with one position then we’d probably be getting criticised for not allowing members the opportunity to debate.

“But we’ve sought to grasp the thistle a little bit, for want of a better phrase, to let members have their say and I think that’s a good and healthy debate to have. I’ve made my views clear and I know some colleagues have got different views but I respect their views and I’m looking forward to having that positive discussion.”