Striking a new chord in his strategy, Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf announced his readiness for an independence referendum, clarifying the party’s stance in a conversation with Laura Kuenssberg on her Sunday show. He suggested that if his party garnered a majority – that being 29 of Scottish seats in a general election – it would validate their demand for a referendum negotiation.
Previously, the first minister had put forth a proposal that insisted on the SNP winning the ‘most’ seats instead of the majority. This shift in strategy comes right at the onset of the annual conference of the SNP in Aberdeen. The conference places considerable pressure on the leadership to revisit their plan ahead of a pivotal debate and vote on the party’s independence blueprint.
Internal party sources believe a majority of seats is the sure-shot path to a robust mandate for independence dialogues. Yousaf also insinuated, in a conversation with Laura Kuenssberg, the party’s dissatisfaction with successive Conservative governments that have, according to him, consistently dismissed a series of mandates on an independence vote.
Looking forward to the general election expected next year, he stated that if the SNP secures a majority, it would empower the Scottish government to kickstart negotiations with the UK government on implementing the mandate democratically. With a majority in hand, they could explore several approaches, including a referendum.
Humza Yousaf has frequently expressed his desire to build persistent backing for independence, suggesting that this would necessitate a minimum of 51% vote for Yes. He furthermore added that, if required, they would facilitate a referendum “tomorrow” to validate the demand for 51% backing.
Yousaf painted a confident image for the party, stating, “We want a referendum, demand a referendum. We’ve been elected on a mandate for a referendum. If you want one, bring it on. We’ll do it tomorrow. I guarantee you, independence will be here sooner rather than later.”
Since the Supreme Court ruled that the Scottish Parliament could not call for an independence referendum without the UK government’s consent, support for independence has stabilized at around 48%.
SNP MP Joanna Cherry has proposed an amendment emphasising that any independence negotiations with the UK government should be conducted by a constitutional convention comprising MPs elected from Scotland, MSPs, and “representatives of civic Scotland.”
Ahead of the critical conference vote, Cherry stated that her amendment had the leadership’s support, but she was not insistent on her other amendment “in the interests of party unity.”
However, it’s not all smooth sailing for the SNP, facing criticism over the NHS, the attainment gap, and Europe’s worst drug death rates. Additionally, the party grappled with the defection of SNP MP Lisa Cameron to the Tories and an ongoing investigation into the party’s finances. Internal differences have also sprouted over the SNP’s power-sharing deal with the Scottish Greens. In these turbulent political landscapes, the SNP conference marks a critical juncture for the party.