FIRST Minister Humza Yousaf will back the establishment of a constitutional convention to negotiate independence if the SNP win the most Scottish seats at the next election, The National can reveal.

MP Joanna Cherry has put forward a proposal – which she said the SNP leader has backed – which would see the Scottish Government assemble a group of MSPs, MPs and representatives from trade unions and religious leaders to negotiate independence.

Her amendment to the SNP leadership’s motion will be debated at the party’s conference in Aberdeen next week and would see the Scottish Government set up a constitutional convention to negotiate the terms of Scotland’s departure from the Union.

It is likely to be modelled on the constitutional convention established in 1989, which is credited with paving the way for the creation of the Scottish Parliament a decade later.

The group was formed of politicians of all parties – initially including the SNP who later withdrew – trade unionists, representatives from the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Church and business groups, among others.

Writing in The National on Friday, Cherry revealed she has held “extensive” meetings recently with the First Minister on the topic.

Expected changes

Yousaf is said to be open to the idea and senior party insiders say the SNP is keen to present an “inclusive” approach to its independence strategy in the run-up to the General Election.

It has also been reported that the SNP’s conference in Aberdeen next week will see the party change the leadership’s position from claiming the “most seats” in Scotland to a “majority” of seats – 29 out of 57 – as a victory for the Yes movement.

If Cherry’s proposals are backed by members and the SNP gains the necessary amount of seats, the constitutional convention would then be created by the Scottish Government.

It would need to be approved by parliament and it’s expected this would pass given the pro-independence majority in Holyrood.

But there would be fierce opposition from Unionist parties who have rejected arguments that the SNP winning the most seats would constitute a mandate to begin negotiations to make Scotland an independent country.

The National:

Writing in The National, Cherry said: “I am pleased to be able to tell readers that I have had the benefit of extensive discussions this week with Humza Yousaf.

“We are both in agreement that to treat the next General Election as a de facto referendum would be unwise.

“The narrative of this election has already been defined as getting rid of the Tories. Really nothing we can do will alter that.

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“Furthermore, the party is not going to be able to win 50% or more of the vote even including the votes of other pro-independence parties.

“The suggestion that this General Election should be a de facto referendum was a misstep by the previous leadership. We need to explicitly rule that out at this conference.

“As a result of my discussions with Humza, it has become clear to me that the strategy favoured by him and Stephen is a demand of the incoming UK government that if the SNP win the election in Scotland (however so defined in the final resolution) on an independence platform, they must enter into negotiations into how to give that democratic effect.

“That could encompass immediate independence negotiations, or a referendum, or transferring the power to hold a referendum and other matters such as employment rights, etc, to Holyrood.

“The leadership will support Tommy Sheppard’s amendment which leaves open the possibility of treating the next Holyrood election as a de facto referendum.

“I am very pleased to report that Humza will also support my amendment mandating that a constitutional convention should be set up with MPs, MSPs and civic Scotland to take forward our journey to statehood.”

It comes as Labour on Friday ruled out any more powers for the Scottish Parliament if they win the next election.

Ian Murray, the shadow Scottish secretary, said the Scottish Government should do more with the powers it has and that Labour’s devolution plans wanted to see power handed from Edinburgh to local authorities.