EVERYONE expected the SNP’s annual conference to have a heated debate on the party’s independence strategy. What was not expected was a challenge for the role of president.

But that’s exactly what will happen – after Graeme McCormick threw his hat into the ring to oust Michael Russell from the position.

McCormick says a victory could send a strong message from the party grassroots to the leadership.

“I see this as basically the only means by which the ordinary members can really voice their intent and their desire that we use the next General Election as the independence election,” he told The National.

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“I think that the only way in which I can register a concern, which I know a lot of rank and file members have, is basically to go ahead with my nomination for president.”

McCormick is concerned that, while the SNP have focused on a vote for independence, very little thought has gone into what happens afterwards.

“First of all, I believe in the dissolution of the Union and that the routes to independence have not been discussed and not been debated, and they haven't been presented to the members to make an informed decision,” he says.

A lawyer for four decades now known for his work on land reform, McCormick says the route to independence lies in international treaties.

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“The day after the election, if there is a majority of pro-independence votes cast, then we dissolve the Union, our MPs dissolve the Union, by not taking their seats in Westminster,” he argues.

“We advise the United Nations that we will abide by the terms of the Vienna Convention [an international agreement that regulates treaties among sovereign states] as regards the equitable distribution of assets and liabilities.”

McCormick says that the Union is a partnership and a dissolution would not be treated the same as a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) by the international community.

“Dissolution is a perfectly legal, acceptable way to end a union in international law,” he says.

“If [SNP MPs] cease to sit in Westminster, then, basically, the Union is at an end, the Union is dissolved.

“That's what happens in the dissolutions of states. You don't need both parties to agree to the dissolution.”

McCormick (below) has been campaigning for independence in some way or another since the 1970s, though he didn’t join the SNP until around 1991.

The National:

Now a director of Business for Scotland, McCormick says his suggestion of dissolution is “not unrealistic” and should be more greatly explored – especially as “we are dealing with political thugs” in Westminster.

He argues that the SNP is “at a crossroads” where it can either push more strongly towards independence, or beat a tactical retreat from the idea.

Running for SNP president, McCormick says, is a way of pressuring the leadership to stick to the former path.

“They're saying ‘advance independence’. ‘Advancing independence’ is one of these things. What does that mean? What does that really mean?

“What destination are we going to get to ‘advancing independence’?

“If I'm successful then I will then propose that the conference committee then allows for another debate on the basis of a motion on actually delivering independence.”

McCormick previously stood for SNP president in 2021, but pulled out saying he had ticked the box inadvertently.

The National:

Speaking after the new bid, current president Russell (above) said he looked forward to the challenge.

The former constitution secretary said: “I think Graeme McCormick stood [in 2021] and then withdrew his nomination.

“It is entirely up to him and I look forward to the challenge. I will be happy for members to choose who they wish to carry on the work which I've been doing.”

The SNP president has traditionally been more of an honorary position than anything else, but Russell was briefly called upon to be acting chief executive and is currently co-chairing the constitution and governance review.

As such, McCormick says a win could have a real impact.

“It doesn't say that it must be a certain sort of role,” he argues. “It has been in the past, but that doesn't mean to say it's to stay.”

The SNP conference will be held in Aberdeen from October 15-17.