INDEPENDENCE minister Jamie Hepburn has insisted the SNP are not lacking in ambition after the party rejected using the next General Election as a "de facto referendum".

At the party’s conference on Sunday, delegates agreed overwhelmingly that the SNP winning a majority of seats at the next General Election would empower the Scottish Government to begin negotiations with the UK on making Scotland an independent nation.

Opponents including SNP MP Pete Wishart and former policy convener Chris Hanlon insisted only a majority of votes would see Scotland internationally recognised as an independent country, with the latter suggesting the party should have adopted a majority of votes for all pro-independence parties as part of its strategy.

Hanlon added he felt the party was showing a “lack of ambition” by not cementing a majority of votes as the trigger for independence negotiations.

But Hepburn told The National he did not agree with the sentiment and insisted a majority of votes is not a "necessity" for moving onto the "next phase of the independence journey".

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Asked if he felt the party’s strategy was lacking in ambition, he said: “Not at all. We’ll be campaigning for a majority of votes but I suppose the point I’m making is, in the election we’re fighting, that’s not the bar that other parties are looking to surmount, so why should we?

“We should play in the same playing field, it’s not about a lack of ambition.

“A majority of seats is a pretty high ambition and I’m confident we can do that, but the ambition is still there. If we get a majority of votes I’ll be delighted but I don’t think it’s a prerequisite or a necessity in terms of moving onto the next phase of the independence journey.”

Hepburn said the UK Government had to be involved in discussions in order for an independent Scotland to gain international recognition, but at the same time insisted the SNP cannot concern themselves too much with the question of whether the UK Government will play ball as they strive for self-determination, stressing that they needed to “control the controllables”.

He added it was important the onus continues to be placed on the UK Government to come to the table, if Scotland keeps delivering mandates for an independence referendum.

“There is not shortcut to independence and the First Minister said that. We are going to have to involve the UK Government in this process,” said Hepburn.

“We need to have them involved to get that international recognition and we need to make sure we keep placing the onus on the UK Government.

"They can’t continue to deny democracy forever and if they say, as they have, they recognise the right of the people of Scotland to exercise their free choice to become an independent country – lets remember the Smith Commission pulled together after the referendum made that point and all parties recognised it –  its incumbent upon them to come to the table to recognise that outcome and then we negotiate how we move onto the next stage.

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“We can't predicate what we do on the possibility the UK Government is going to say no. All we can do is put forward our platform and seek the endorsement of the people.”

The idea of a "de facto referendum" was first put forward by former first minister Nicola Sturgeon, which would have seen winning 50%+1 of the vote treated the same as winning a referendum.

But on Monday at conference she gave her “full unequivocal support” to the new strategy being adopted.

Other key amendments which were passed as part of the strategy included Joanna Cherry's call for a constitutional convention "constituted by the MPs elected to Westminster, MSPs, and representatives of civic Scotland". 

Policy convener Toni Giugliano's amendment calling for a new Scotland-wide Yes campaign to be established by the end of the year was also agreed upon by members. 

Hepburn said he was confident that was an achievable timeframe and a “raft of materials” would be made available for activists to make the independence case and get the message out to undecided voters.

“The campaign has never stopped,” said Hepburn.

“I’m out there regularly and I know my colleagues are too but having had that discussion we now move into the next phase and we’ve agreed there’s going to be a raft of materials available for people to take out there and get through the doors.”