THE leadership race has shown the SNP needs more debate on policy issues - which should be “normal” for a political party, an analyst has argued.

Anthony Salamone, managing director of political analysis firm European Merchants, also said it would be “sensible to envision” that it could take 36 months for Scotland to become a state, from the date of a vote to leave the UK.

His comments published in an online magazine come after the candidates for the next SNP leader – Kate Forbes, Ash Regan and Humza Yousaf – set out different visions on how to achieve independence.

Yousaf wants party members to decide on a collective plan at the SNP’s autumn conference, while Forbes has outlined plans to use the next Westminster election to win a mandate to demand a Section 30 order within three months if the SNP win a majority of seats.

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Under Regan’s “voter empowerment mechanism” (VEM) plan, a majority vote for pro-independence parties in a Westminster or Holyrood election would give a mandate to commence negotiations with the UK Government over leaving.

Salamone wrote that it was unsurprising there was “significant attention” to the issue of independence in the SNP leadership contest.

But he added: “More interesting, and revealing, is the plethora of positions, opinions and suggestions, from the leader candidates and many others, on the pathway to statehood for Scotland, its potential intervals and its eventual destination.

“On many of these questions, the Sturgeon administration projected an external uniformity which, evidently, did not reflect the variety of views within the SNP.”

Salamone argued the “internal dialogue” on matters of policy which had been triggered by the leadership campaign should be normal for a political party.

READ MORE: Kate Forbes: 'This is is probably my one opportunity to be SNP leader'

He added: “The elements of awkwardness and surprise associated with this dialogue reflect its relative absence over recent years and the general approach of previous leadership.

“If the SNP aims to reimagine itself, which would surely be necessary for its future success, the party will need more of such dialogue, not less.”

In the paper ‘Reflections on the Pathway of Scottish Independence’, Salamone also examined the issue of the transition phase for Scotland to become independent after a Yes vote.

He said calculating how long it would take is “not an exact science” and the process of leaving the UK would be “bespoke”, meaning the experience of other countries gaining independence would not be particularly relevant.

READ MORE: Tories rage as Humza Yousaf brands Westminster a 'foreign' government

“While further analysis is required, to me, it would be sensible to envision that Scotland could reasonably take 36 months to become a state, from the date of the referendum to the date of statehood,” he said.

“If a post-referendum Scotland adopted such a target, it would need to marshal its society and its institutions adeptly to meet it.

"Ultimately, similar to EU accession, the most consequential factor in the eventual length of the transition phase would be how well and timeously Scotland, as a collective, prepared itself for statehood.”