“IT was leaked before I had even read it.”

It was only a matter of hours after it had been sent out that a draft motion on the SNP’s de facto referendum plan – shared only with members of the party’s ruling body – appeared in the press.

The high-level leak led to “spin”, with reports over the weekend suggesting that Nicola Sturgeon was to unilaterally change the SNP’s plan for the next General Election.

The first story based on the leaked document appeared in The Times on Saturday – the same day the National Executive Committee (NEC) was due to meet to discuss it. It was on that paper’s website at midnight, a matter of hours after the draft motion had first been sent out.

READ MORE: Yes movement has to focus on the big questions – not quick fixes

“It was leaked before I had even read it,” SNP councillor and NEC member Graham Campbell told The National.

He alleged it was “obviously somebody who is new to the NEC” behind the leak, with elections for the ruling body having been held at the SNP conference in Aberdeen in October.

“We have all got our own ideas but whoever they are, they are traitor to their own movement,” Campbell said. “It was lucky it wasn’t greatly important so it wasn’t so much of a big deal this time.”

On top of the NEC's perhaps predictable annoyance at the high-level leak, there were further issues raised about the media outlet the leaker had chosen.

Simon Barrow, the national secretary of the SNP Trade Union Group who attended Saturday’s NEC, said The Times had “predictably tried to spin the draft motion as some sort of climbdown, which it clearly is not”.

Campbell – who also serves as the chair of the party’s BAME network – questioned why anyone on the NEC would leak to a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch “because they oppose everything we stand for”.

“I don’t understand why anyone would leak to a paper like that unless they are also opposed to everything we stand for,” the SNP councillor (below) added.

The National: The African Caribbean Centre, which former director Graham Campbell helped form, is facing eviction. Mr Campbell has appealed for a reprieve

The Times story stated that the next General Election was “to be ‘show of support for second vote’”.

It reported: “Nicola Sturgeon is preparing to row back on her plan to make the next General Election a ‘de facto referendum’ on Scottish independence.”

However the full motion – which was also published on the SNP’s website on Saturday – makes clear that it is about an option to be given to members, not a change in tack handed down from the leadership.

The First Minister has also said that, far from a climbdown, the de facto referendum is her preferred route.

Barrow said: “The Trade Union Group is extremely disappointed that someone apparently connected to the party’s National Executive Committee would even think of leaking to a right-wing Murdoch newspaper, knowing that they are ideologically committed to trashing both independence and the party. That is incredibly counter-productive.

“The Times report predictably tried to spin the draft motion as some sort of climbdown, which it clearly is not.

“There will be a democratic debate about strategy and options at the SNP special conference in March, and as our official affiliated group of trade unionists in the party we will be meeting in February to prepare for that, with a full and frank debate about these important issues.

“We need to build solidarity within the party, across the wider independence movement, and among our many friends in the trade union movement who believe in Scotland’s right to choose its progressive future.”

Campbell also said there should be “honest and open” debate about the de facto referendum idea.

READ MORE: SNP agree resolution text for delegates to vote on - here's their mixed reaction

The SNP NEC has invited amendments to its motion, or alternative motions on the same topic, to be put forward for consideration ahead of the Special Democracy Conference on March 19.

Speaking on Monday, the First Minister said her views on the best route had not changed since last summer, when she proposed the de facto referendum plan in the event that the Supreme Court blocked Holyrood’s attempt to hold a second independence vote.

However, she added that it was “important” that the SNP special conference could discuss the various options “and come to a collective decision”.