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SNP Delegates Give Support to Yousaf’s Independence Plan

humza yousaf snp

This week, the SNP Party Conference is taking place in Aberdeen and a potential second independence referendum is high on the agenda. Since Humza Yousaf replaced Nicola Sturgeon as the party’s leader in March, he has been unrelenting in his quest for Scottish independence.

In his victory speech, he promised that he and his team would be the “generation that delivers independence for Scotland.” While this bullishness may have helped him to win the leadership election, his tenure as leader hasn’t been plain sailing thus far.

Accusations of bullying within the party have been rife and at a recent by-election in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, the party lost a seat to Labour in what was a landslide victory. Many people saw this as a message to the SNP about Scotland’s dissatisfaction with them and a warning for what may happen at the next general election.

Despite that, Yousaf is still pushing on with plans for a second Scottish independence referendum. In recent days, Yousaf has said that if the SNP win a majority of Scottish seats (29) at the next general election, then they would have the mandate to demand an independence referendum.

This is a switch from his previous proposal which stated that the SNP only needed to win more seats than every other party, rather than a majority. This would have meant a mandate could have been achieved by potentially winning far less than 29 seats.

Yousaf was under pressure from those within the party to change the mandate, to ensure a stronger negotiating position. And now, at the Party Conference, the new strategy has been voted through by delegates.

As part of the newly approved strategy, the SNP could even use the 2026 Scottish Parliament election as a “de facto” referendum should they win 29 seats or more at the general election.

Amendments to the proposal

In order to get the plan approved by those within his party, Yousaf had to agree to several amendments. The first, and most crucial one, was to change the threshold for “most seats” to a “majority” with senior figures believing this would strengthen their mandate.

Another key amendment related to the party’s manifesto for the next general election. Senior MPs pushed for a demand for the permanent transfer of legal power to Holyrood to be included, which would provide the Scottish Government with the power to “properly tackle the twin crises of the cost of living and climate”.

The amendment was approved by Yousaf who wants to use the party’s manifesto to signal their intent. He stated that the first line of the manifesto would read “Vote SNP for Scotland to become an independent country” and that independence would be “front and centre” of their election campaign.

Another amendment related to the very real possibility that the UK government would reject an independence referendum. It states that the SNP should consider using the 2026 Scottish Parliament as the independence referendum if the UK government won’t give them an official one.

Rishi Sunak has said recently that Scottish independence was “settled” in the 2014 referendum, while the current poll leader, Sir Keir Starmer, has openly said that he would reject any request for a second referendum should Labour win the next general election.

What next?

With the party now in agreement, the next stage for the SNP is to publish a set of detailed conditions for negotiations. The Party will begin preparations for independence and could start to draft plans on how they will rejoin the EU.

A fully-fledged independence campaign is expected to commence with delegates pushing for the words “independence for Scotland” to be added next to the SNP’s name on ballot papers at the next general election.

As ever, the party will have to deal with dissenting voices from within and outside. Graeme McCormick, a long-standing delegate within the SNP, described the debate around independence as “flatulence in a trance” while Donald Cameron MSP, a spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives said:

“Humza Yousaf and the SNP are committed to wasting more taxpayers’ money on independence, rather than addressing the real priorities of Scotland.”

Final thought

While Humza Yousaf’s leadership tenure has been marked by controversy, his unwavering commitment to independence has won over some party members. However, the challenges ahead are significant, with a potential UK government rejection of a second referendum and internal party dissent.

The SNP’s new strategy, approved by delegates, may strengthen their mandate, but it’s unclear if it will be enough to sway the majority of Scots. As the independence debate continues, one thing is certain: the future of Scotland hangs in the balance.

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