SENIOR SNP figures have insisted delaying a vote on independence strategy is the right way forward despite the move being branded “moronic” by party sources.

The SNP revealed delegates won't "officially decide" their independence strategy at the upcoming Independence Convention in an invitation to members on Wednesday afternoon and will instead settle on one at the annual conference in October.

This is despite depute leader Keith Brown saying last month the event would be “solely focused” on how to hold a legally-binding referendum.

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When the event was originally organised by former first minister Nicola Sturgeon, it was billed as a special democracy conference and delegates would’ve voted for one of two options for a preferred route to independence – treating the General Election as a de facto referendum or an SNP victory being taken as a mandate to demand the transfer of powers to Holyrood.

Since it emerged there will be no official decision made at the convention in Dundee on June 24, SNP sources have expressed anger while it is understood staffers and organisers feel similarly.

But Brown told The National that First Minister Humza Yousaf had made it clear there should be a discussion on the route forward.

Brown believes having a convention followed by a series of regional assemblies – which members will get details on in coming days - was the “right way to do it”.

Meanwhile, Independence Minister Jamie Hepburn said there were “advantages” to delaying the vote and suggested it would have been “tough” to organise a conference that would’ve had the power to officially make a call on the route forward following a leadership contest.

Brown added: “It was always intended there should be a discussion, though there was a proposal previously from Nicola that she would put a proposal to a conference.

“However, Humza [Yousaf] has made it clear, both during the leadership contest and after, that there should be a discussion about the options.

“It won’t be just a one-off thing. We’ll have the convention then we’ll have a series of regional assemblies where can also discuss other things like the General Election strategy and preparations, but what they will discuss is taking forward a proposal for independence.

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“To me it seems like the right way to do it, to have a general discussion and to come back to conference and make the decision.”

Brown said there would be more information about what options will be on the table for discussion in the coming days. He added this would come “directly” from the First Minister.

The FM will open the conversation at the convention, setting out his preferred option for the people of Scotland to democratically express a clear view on their future.

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp (pictured below), the founder of Scotland's largest grassroots independence campaign Believe in Scotland, said the SNP must stop “dragging their feet and decide a preferred road to independence” at the convention.

The National: Business For Scotland chief executive Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp pictured speaking at the Trades Hall of Glasgow for the launch of the Believe In Scotland campaign and Scotland The Brief book.

  Photograph by Colin Mearns
22 January 2020
For The National

Another senior SNP source said: "I think it’s pathetic – it only opens up more space for division and frustration, while what we should be doing is setting out a plan, democratically adopting a plan, and campaigning on the basis of the plan.”

Meanwhile, Hepburn said the new plan would give the party more space and time to decide the route forward and get members more involved after electing a new leader.

He added the FM had made it clear there needs to be dialogue with members about how independence is achieved.

“There had been a conference proposed when Nicola was first minister and that would’ve had the authority to make a decision. That’s not what we’re doing [now]," Hepburn said. 

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“The First Minister was very clear over the course of his bid for leadership that we need to engage in this process of dialogue and this kicks that off, and then there’s a series of events across the country.

“We can then come back and all that will help us form a decision.

“This gives us the space and time for the maximum number of members to be involved in the conversation.

"There’s something to be said for having a national event which will enable party members to come along to feed in their thoughts, to hear from the First Minister, and then be engaged with members across the country and come together in the normal way and make a decision.

The National: Delegates cheer the announcement of an Independence Referendum Bill at the SNP conference in 2016

“The NEC took the decision to postpone the conference. That was a decision taken before the First Minister was elected as party leader, so we should remember that too.

“On balance, I don’t think that was a bad thing to do - allow the party to elect a new leader and then they’ve got some space to consider the appropriate thing to do next. I think we’ve got the right process.

“I think there’s advantages to what we’re doing here.”