NICOLA Sturgeon's leadership has been dealt a blow after a raft of internal critics of her independence strategy have been elected to the party's ruling body.

Joanna Cherry, the Edinburgh South West MP, has joined the National Executive Committee (NEC), along with more than 30 other senior figures who want the SNP to come up with a fall-back route to making Scotland independent should Boris Johnson continue to refuse a Section 30 order.

The group also want a series of internal party reforms including an overhaul of its complaints process, more financial transparency and a greater role for the grassroots.

READ MORE: SNP NEC results revealed: Michael Russell becomes party president

The First Minister has been critical of progressing an alternative route to independence with the committee behind the conference's agenda chiefs blocking two Plan B proposals for debate at the event which ended yesterday.

At the same time, Alyn Smith - a leading supporter of the First Minister's strategy and Plan B critic - was voted off the NEC losing his key role as policy chief to Chris Hanlon.

Hanlon was one of the 32 successful candidates endorsed by the SNP's Common Weal Group (SNP CWG) which Smith berated as a "faction" in a column in The National last month.

The results also saw critics of the Scottish Government's planned reforms to the Gender Recognition Act - such as Cherry and Caroline McAllister - elected onto the body, while high-profile supporters of the changes including Rhiannon Spear were ousted.

Spear was voted off as women's convener, losing out to McAllister, the convener of the Women's Pledge group who are critical of the Scottish Government's planned reforms to the Gender Recognition Act.

One senior party insider said the results should be "wake-up call" to the First Minister.

"This is a wake-up call to Nicola to come back to reality on independence and on social issues."

Today the SNP CWG welcomed what they said for "a resounding success" for them in SNP NEC elections.

Other candidates endorsed by the group who were elected to the body were Councillor Lynne Anderson and Douglas Chapman MP to national positions - and Catriona MacDonald, Roger Mullin and Amanda Burgauer as regional representatives.  

SNP CWG convener Craig Berry said: “Ordinary SNP members across Scotland are the backbone of our party. In this weekend’s elections they have made their voices heard - and the message is clear: they want change. They want a role in the governance of our party. They want more say on our policy direction. And they want action on independence now.” 

“We have spent the last year speaking to SNP members and branches who have exciting new ideas for Scotland’s future as an independent nation. SNP CWG members of the NEC will be working to ensure these ideas - including for a national care service, rent controls and radical land reform - make it onto the party agenda.” 

"The SNP CWG looks forward to working with the new SNP NEC to unite the party behind a progressive grassroots-led campaign for independence in 2021.” 

The SNP CWG’s internal manifesto for democracy sets out six key reforms to prepare for an independence campaign and empower the party grassroots through robust internal democracy. It was signed by candidates standing for national and regional positions. 

The manifesto received considerable support, including from SNP MP Kenny MacAskill, former MP George Kerevan and independence campaigner Lesley Riddoch. 

Angus MacNeil, a leading advocate of Plan B, said: "Irrespective of personalities, this was a good wins for ideas and I hope that we don't go through a third party conference if need be where a debate on Plan B is blocked."

His fellow Plan B advocate Chris McEleny described the move as a key moment in the party's history.

"This the biggest internal sea change since the readmission of the ‘79 group members in the 1980s.

"Party members have clearly voted for change by electing a raft of NEC candidates that want to see more vibrant policy debate engaged and a much more radical policy position adopted by the party.

"The strategy of accepting the Boris Veto of a section 30 request was on the ballot paper and party members have overwhelming voted for the party to explore alternative options to ensure the democratic voice of Scotland is heard. The party Leadership must reflect carefully on this result and respond to this call for change." 

The independence blogger Stuart Campbell noted what he saw as the significance of the election results.

"Alyn Smith OUT as Policy Development Convener, replaced by Chris Hanlon. Rhiannon Spear is OUT as Women’s Convener, replaced by Caroline McAllister.

"Fiona Robertson is OUT as Equalities Convener, replaced by Lynne Anderson. All of these are dramatic changes for the better," he wrote.

"Joanna Cherry is IN. Neale Hanvey is IN. Roger Mullin is IN. Dorothy Jessiman is IN. Catriona McDonald is IN. Douglas Chapman is IN. All ditto."

The SNP have been approached for a comment.