AN expert on Scottish politics has said the SNP’s new independence strategy is “steeped in ambiguity and incoherence”.

Public policy professor James Mitchell – who is based at the University of Edinburgh – said in a blog post that Humza Yousaf’s message at the party’s convention in Dundee on Saturday was “deeply confused”.

Mitchell insisted the SNP still lack coherent answers on currency, borders and the economy.

The First Minister proposed that the SNP should present a manifesto for independence at Gthe next eneral Election, and if they win, seek negotiations with the UK Government on how to give “democratic effect” to securing independence.

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He did not clarify the definition of an SNP win, but it is understood that a majority of seats would be enough to trigger those negotiations.

The First Minister confirmed in the event the SNP wins the election: “We will take that mandate from the people and ensure we as a government are ready to negotiate our independence."

But Mitchell has said Yousaf’s announcement left him with a number of questions, as he cast doubt on whether any independence negotiations would actually happen in the event of an SNP victory at the General Election.

Mitchell said in his blog: “The SNP has not only lost momentum but is fast losing its reputation for governing competence that gave it the overall majority in 2011 that provided a mandate for an independence referendum.

“Putting all that to one side, the SNP leader’s message was still deeply confused. The SNP ‘will absolutely fight the next election with independence front and centre of our campaign’.  The first line in its manifesto next year will declare: ‘VOTE SNP FOR SCOTLAND TO BECOME AN INDEPENDENT SCOTLAND’. 

The National: Humza Yousaf's strategy was incoherent, accoeding to Professor James MitchellHumza Yousaf's strategy was incoherent, accoeding to Professor James Mitchell (Image: PA)

“This seems, at first sight, a rehash of Sturgeon’s de facto referendum. But he then went on to say that ‘if we win the General Election, we will take that mandate from the people and ensure we as a government are ready to negotiate our independence’ in comments steeped in ambiguity and incoherence.

“Sturgeon’s de facto referendum would have involved the SNP winning 50% of the vote, though there was initially some confusion even on that too. 

“Does Yousaf mean: if the SNP has more votes and/or seats than any other party, not necessarily 50% of either or both?  If the SNP remains the largest party but with say 35% of the vote and a consequent loss of several seats, would that constitute a mandate, and for what exactly?

“And what does ‘we as a government are ready to negotiate our independence’ mean?  Being ready is quite different from actually entering negotiations. 

"We might expect the SNP to be ready to start negotiations if they seriously expected that Scotland was on the cusp of independence but that doesn’t mean negotiations will happen.  It takes two (at least) to negotiate.”

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SNP MSP Ash Regan also cast doubt on whether the UK Government would listen in the event of an SNP win if the bar was not set high enough. 

Yousaf said the party would put together a detailed document, titled “Withdrawal from Westminster – A New Partnership Agreement”, after recording a victory.

This would include a draft legal text on the transfer of powers from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament “necessary to prepare for independence”.

It would set out how assets would be divided between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

At this stage, Yousaf says the Government would also conduct a “nationwide, open, and inclusive consultation on a draft interim constitution, the founding document of our newly-independent state”.

But Mitchell said he offered nothing in terms of answers on how the party will tackle the cost of living crisis and build a stronger economy with independence.

He went on: “Despite the rhetoric that there is work to be done, the SNP still lacks coherent, consistent and convincing answers on currency, the economy, borders and, crucially, how it will deliver the healthy, wealthy Scotland that all want. 

“[Yousaf] argued that independence would provide powers to build an economy, tackle the cost of living crisis, build a welfare system etc. But all such powers exist in the UK.  It is not the absence of powers but the absence of answers as to how this will be done that needs to be answered.

“Most people want a strong economy and fair society – proclaiming that is easy; delivering it, as the SNP has demonstrated in office, is the difficult bit. And not a word was offered on that.”

Mithcell insisted the SNP needs to “get its own house in order” and regain a reputation for governing competence, before offering convincing answers on key issues around the process and transition to independence.

He concluded: “For the last eight years, the SNP has been swept along on a wave of post-independence referendum enthusiasm.  But waves ebb and flow. 

“The key lesson is that Scotland will not be taken to independence on an emotional wave.  Hard questions require answers.  There is simply no alternative.”