SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes has pledged to create a new prospectus for independence which will be written by the party and “not by the British civil service”.

The Finance Secretary, who is bidding to become leader against rivals Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan, said that for too long there have been “too few” people in the SNP drawing up the vision for Scotland’s future after leaving the UK.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday National, she has set out in detail for the first time her proposals for building support for Yes and moving to a referendum.

Forbes said she believed there should be more ambition about what the first 10 years of independence would look like for Scotland.

Watch the full interview

How to secure independence?

She has outlined a plan to use the next Westminster election to win a mandate to demand within three months the powers to hold a referendum if the SNP win a majority of seats.

On the issue of when the vote would be held, she said this would be when there is “sustained majority support” for Yes – but would not put a figure on what this would look like as it would “limit sights”.

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She said: “What I’m proposing is an independence delivery plan which would be implemented, which is designed to maximise and boost support for independence.

“Call it a campaign team with a mission to persuade and to ensure that as many people as possible are being reached.

“I think that requires a leader who can speak to and reach out to those that voted No last time.

“So it’s important that we bring on side those who voted Yes, as well as those who voted No.

“And in terms of that plan, that plan has got to be informed also by members.”

She added: “For too long, it perhaps has been too few people in the SNP making those plans for independence.

“We need to make sure that that delivery plan is informed by our members as well.”

The SNP’s special democracy conference, which was due to discuss the plans for a referendum, was postponed after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon resigned.

When asked if it would still happen, Forbes said it could be held as part of the debate, but said just one conference would not allow everyone in the party and wider Yes movement to have their say.

The prospectus for independence?

She said the aim would be to have a new prospectus out before the next General Election.

Sturgeon began publishing a series of papers on Building A New Scotland last year, which civil servants were involved in preparing.

Forbes said her programme of work would be both informed and approved by SNP members.

“I would like to see it being written by the party and not by the British civil service, because I think it’s important that that paper, that programme, reflects the policy ideas of our members,” she added.

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“Everybody who’s a member of the SNP or who believes in independence does so for a reason.

“Independence is not an end in and of itself, it’s a means to an end.

“For some, it is a means to building a fairer society.

“For others, it’s a means of dealing with some of the issues that exist, for example, the energy market.

“We need to be listening to our members and I think we need to completely change the approach of papers being written by just a few people in Holyrood.”

How to secure a mandate?

On the issue of winning a mandate for a Section 30 order, Forbes said this would be achieved by the SNP securing a majority of seats at the next UK election. When asked why she preferred this route rather than using votes for all independence parties, she said: “Because historically, that’s the way elections work.

The National:

“That a party will put its manifesto to the people, and the party that wins the most number of seats will be the party that forms the government.

“Obviously, in the Westminster election that’s different because we’re not looking to form a government in a Westminster election.

“We are looking to receive the backing of the Scottish people for our manifesto and in our manifesto, we would put that mandate to enter negotiations with the UK Government to have the power transferred.”

She said a referendum would take place when there is “sustained majority support” for independence, and work would start immediately to boost it.

On the issue of how this would be measured, she said: “I wouldn’t put a figure on it because I want to see as many people in Scotland as possible support independence. So I think by putting a figure on it, you limit your sights.”

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Asked whether there would be a “backup” proposal if the UK Government refused to grant the powers to Holyrood, she said: “The plan is to maximise support for independence – that at the end of the day, whilst we’ve become consumed and fixated on conversations about process because we all feel the need for independence urgently, the plan is always the plan – it is the same plan which is maximising support for independence.”

Faith in politics

Forbes, who is a Free Church of Scotland member, has faced a series of questions on her beliefs and faced a major backlash over views such as saying she would not have supported equal marriage if she had been an MSP at the time the legislation passed.

On the issue of how she separates her beliefs from political life, she said: “I refer you to the last six years … my track record speaks for itself”.

And when asked if she thought the attention on her faith had been unfair, she said: “I mean, there’s been enormous attention, hasn’t there?

“I’ve answered more questions on this matter than probably most politicians do in a lifetime.

“I think I’ve answered the questions conclusively now and am very keen, I think for the sake of SNP members and also the wider public, to focus on what is really consuming their attention.”

Forbes said her first priorities as first minister would be the NHS and tackling the cost of living crisis. Asked why she thinks she is winning support, she said: “I think right now the public and SNP members want change – continuity won’t cut it, they want change.”