THE Minister for Independence has said the SNP should consider the prospect of a multi-option referendum on Scotland’s future although admitted it's not "as good an option" compared with the full powers of independence

Jamie Hepburn said that there should be a “discussion” with Labour on a “devo-max” option should Keir Starmer’s party win the next General Election.

In an interview with the Daily Record, Hepburn acknowledged there is no “easy or straightforward” path to independence.

Asked about a possible deal with Labour on a multi-option referendum, including options for more powers and independence, Hepburn said:  “That’s something we need to consider. We discussed that as a prospect in the past.

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“Certainly when there’s been the opportunity to acquire additional responsibilities for the Scottish Parliament, we’ve supported that.

“Whether or not that’s really come to fruition as much as we might have felt it could otherwise have is another question.

“But if that was a possibility, that’s something we’d need to consider.”

He described “devo max”, which would see significantly more powers devolved to Holyrood, as “sub-optimal”.

However, he also added: “It could be better than the position we are in just now because it would provide us with a wider variety of fiscal levers to deal with some of the challenges we face in the country.

“But by comparison with being an independent actor on the global stage, being able to determine our own relationship with the rest of Europe, I don’t think it’s as good an option.”

Hepburn was also asked if the SNP would be able to talk to Labour about multiple options on any ballot, so long as independence was one of them. 

“If we are in the circumstances whereby there is no overall majority in the House of Commons next time, I think it’s incumbent to have that discussion, that dialogue, but fundamentally we want to advance Scotland to become an independent country”, he said. 

“There isn’t an easy or straightforward process. I wish there were, but whatever path we take to achieve independence, it’s going to be based and predicated on an electoral process. 

“And that, for me, the next national election is going to be the general election.”

The Minister for Independence also gave his thoughts on Alex Salmond’s suggestion that the pro-independence parties should only put forward one candidate at the next General Election

It was met with some criticism, including by the SNP’s longest-serving MP Pete Wishart

However, writing in The National yesterday, Joanna Cherry said Salmond's plans must be considered

Hepburn said: “The SNP has always contested elections on the basis that it will contest all the constituencies across the country right now. That’s the position. 

“Right now, the working assumption will be the SNP will be contesting every constituency at the next General Election.”

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He also explained there were areas Scotland could still jointly deliver on with the rest of the UK in the event of independence. 

“Whether or not that’s something we would determine to do remains to be seen. The most obvious example is the institution of monarchy. 

“If you mean in terms of day-to-day administrative functions, then yes, there are areas that could possibly be the case.”

Alba reaction

The Alba Party responded to Hepburn’s “devo max” comments, saying that it is only with the “full powers of independence” that Scotland can secure its economic future. 

“Devo max is a Trojan horse that would ensure that Westminster retains the key fiscal levers over Scotland’s economy”, said party chair Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh. 

She added: “Support for independence is high but support for the SNP is now falling to 30% with no immediate sign of improvement. 

“That’s why Alba Party have proposed a Scotland united pro-independence pact at the next General Election to ensure independence doesn’t suffer a setback because of the tribulations of one political party. 

“If the people of Scotland put their trust in Scotland united at the next general election then this would be a mandate to enter into independence negotiations with the UK Government.”