INDEPENDENCE will be back at the heart of this autumn’s SNP conference after it was controversially absent from the party’s main conference last year.

A resolution published in the draft agenda for the three-day event calls for the country to prepare for a second independence referendum if Scotland’s EU membership is not safeguarded in the UK’s Brexit negotiations.

It says: “Conference believes that every avenue must be explored to keep Scotland in the EU. If no viable solution to safeguard our membership as part of the UK exists, Scotland should prepare for a second independence referendum and seek to remain in Europe as an independent country.”

The resolution was put down by Toni Giugliano, of the party’s Edinburgh Western branch. It also welcomes the result that 62 per cent of voters in Scotland backed the remain case and expresses disappointment that the UK voted as a whole to leave.

It adds: “Conference believes that it would be democratically unacceptable if Scotland were to be dragged out of Europe against its will.

“Conference expresses its disappointment that the UK as a whole voted to leave the EU but reaffirms that the democratic will of the people of Scotland must be respected.”

In October last year, for the first time in the party’s history, the question of independence did not appear on the SNP’s conference agenda and many senior figures and activists expressed criticism of the decision following the election of 56 MPs in the General Election just months earlier.

This year’s decision by the party’s standing orders and agenda committee to include the resolution in the draft conference agenda, making it certain to be debated at the conference, was backed by candidates for SNP depute leadership.

Tommy Sheppard, the MP for Edinburgh East, said: “I think it’s very important that we debate the prospect of a second independence referendum and by October we may have a better picture of what options are available to keeping Scotland in Europe and whether the British government is prepared to consider them.”

MEP Alyn Smith said: “I welcome any opportunity to discuss independence. The SNP is absolutely all about independence and I look forward to the debate to see where the discussion takes us.”

Angus Robertson, the SNP Westminster leader, said: “It is only right that our democratic conference discusses building a new prospectus for independence, a vision for Scotland that would deliver our shared values to continue to build a better Scotland.

“Last week I said Scotland was on the brink of independence, and I truly believe that. There can be no doubt that Theresa May is the most right wing Prime Minister since Margaret Thatcher and the future looks bleak. With independence we can take that future into our own hands, and I look forward to reinvigorating that discussion at our conference.”

Following the referendum on June 23, the First Minister set up an advisory group on Scotland’s relationship with the EU, led by Professor Anton Muscatelli of Glasgow University.

She has stressed a second independence referendum is “most likely” following the EU result which showed significant support among Scots for remaining.

Earlier this week she said independence could offer Scotland the greatest economic stability as she set out five key demands which had to be safeguarded under Brexit negotiations.

She named these as Scotland’s democratic, economic and social protection interests as well as ensuring the country had political influence and that a sense of collective solidarity with other nations was safeguarded.

Giugliano told The National he hoped the resolution would get considerable support from delegates.

“What the First Minister is doing is absolutely crucial. She has to look at all possible ways of keeping Scotland in the EU, but my view is – if you look at the First Minister’s key asks in these negotiations, I don’t think the UK Government will be able to deliver on any of them.”

Amendments may be submitted to the resolution – possibly from the party’s Eurosceptics wing – which would be debated at the conference taking place in Glasgow from October 13 to 15.

George Kerevan, the SNP MP for East Lothian, last year called on party leaders to clarify the issue at the conference after the issue was not on the agenda, while Martyn Day, the SNP MP for Linlithgow and East Falkirk, said he wanted the party to be able to call a “snap referendum” in the next parliament if it needed to do so.