The Scottish National Party (SNP) is holding its annual conference this week, where one of the main topics of debate will be the party’s strategy for achieving independence from the UK. The SNP leadership has put forward a motion that outlines how a mandate for independence negotiations will be secured and what happens next. However, some members have proposed amendments to the motion, suggesting different criteria for a mandate. Here are some of the key points of the debate:
Majority of seats or most seats?
The original motion states that if the SNP wins the most seats at the next UK General Election in Scotland, the Scottish Government will be empowered to begin negotiations with the UK Government on Scotland becoming an independent country. However, an amendment backed by First Minister Humza Yousaf proposes that instead of the most seats, a mandate should be based on a majority of seats. This means that the SNP would have to win at least 29 out of 57 Scottish constituencies, which is expected to be more challenging after the boundary changes.
Majority of votes or 50% of votes?
Another amendment, put forward by SNP MP Joanna Cherry and the SNP Trade Union Group, suggests that a mandate should be based on a majority of votes for pro-independence parties in Scotland at the General Election. This would include the votes of other parties that support independence, such as the Alba Party and the Scottish Greens. This proposal has been endorsed by former SNP leader Alex Salmond, who argues that Westminster would dismiss a majority of seats as a mandate. However, Cherry has indicated that she may not call for a vote on this amendment, as she believes it is unlikely that pro-independence parties will win more than 50% of the votes.
De facto referendum or direct referendum?
A third amendment, proposed by SNP MP Pete Wishart and the Almond and Earn branch, suggests that instead of using the General Election as a basis for a mandate, the SNP should seek to hold a de facto referendum on independence. This means that if more than half of voters back the SNP at the General Election, the party would use it as a mandate to start negotiations on ending the Union. This idea was originally put forward by former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in her plans for a de facto referendum. Wishart argues that this would be more credible and realistic than trying to assert independence without carrying the majority of people with them.
What will happen next?
The debate on the independence strategy is expected to be lively and passionate, as SNP members have different views on how to achieve their ultimate goal of breaking away from the UK. The outcome of the vote will have implications for the future of Scotland and its relations with Westminster. However, whatever strategy is adopted by the SNP, it will still face resistance from the UK Government, which has repeatedly ruled out granting another referendum on independence. The question remains: how will the SNP overcome this obstacle and persuade Westminster to respect Scotland’s democratic will?