Hundreds of pro-independence activists have gathered in Glasgow for a conference aimed at preparing for a future referendum campaign.
The sold-out event is an opportunity to “to build the knowledge, the infrastructure and the movement for the future independence campaign”, say organisers the Scottish Independence Convention (SIC).
Dubbed ‘Build: Policy – Strategy – Movement’, the conference has seen around 800 campaigners flock to the Radisson Blu Hotel on Saturday for a programme of speakers and interactive sessions.
Speakers include equalities secretary Angela Constance, Scottish Greens co-convener Maggie Chapman, SNP MP Tommy Sheppard and former SNP minister Jim Mather.
On Monday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told STV News she would not be holding a second independence referendum this year.
Opening the conference, actress and comedienne Elaine C Smith said it was not the time for the independence movement to become complacent.
“This is not us congratulating ourselves on how far we’ve come, it is about building and working towards the next stage of how we get independence for our country,” she said.
“It is a hugely important thing to thousands and thousands of people across Scotland and beyond.”
Scottish Greens co-convener Maggie Chapman urged activists to start work preparing for a future independence vote now, saying: “As the creaking British state lurches from crisis to crisis, the need for independence becomes clearer and clearer.
“It is time to start building the independence movement again so that when the next referendum comes we are in a place to convince thousands more Scots that another, and better, Scotland is possible.”
Angela Constance said any new independence campaign would need a “fresh perspective”.
She told the SIC: “It’s always timely at the start of a new year to take a deep breath and look to the future and today is our opportunity to consider a new debate for a new Scotland.
“We must not assume that people’s views – whether they were Yes or whether they were No – are the same as they were two years ago.”
The equalities secretary added: “I see Scotland as a country which locates itself not where geography has placed us – on the periphery of a continent – but at the heart of a progressive vision of nations in Europe and beyond.
“If it’s a choice between an inward, insular Tory Britain or a progressive, internationalist Scotland I know where I stand.”
The Scottish Government minister was criticised for attending the event by former Labour MSP Graeme Pearson, who now heads the anti-independence campaign group Scotland in Union.
He said: “There is much more to be getting on with in Scotland currently. We have got problems we should be addressing.
“For a Cabinet secretary to decide to take time out of her busy government day to go and talk about referendums again just seems negative to me.”
Pearson added: “It just seems we are caught in this loop of going round and round in a circle going nowhere fast.”
The First Minister has said another independence referendum is “highly likely” after a majority of Scots voted to stay in the European Union while the UK as a whole opted for Brexit.
The Scottish Government has already drafted legislation for a vote, which it says will be used if it concludes independence is the only way to protect Scotland’s place in Europe.
But speaking on Monday, Sturgeon ruled out a 2017 plebiscite, telling STV News: “There is not going to be an independence referendum in 2017. I don’t think there is anybody who thinks that is the case.”
The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats unanimously oppose a second referendum, and have called on the First Minister to rule it out entirely.
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said of Sturgeon: “If she’s serious about allowing Scotland to move on from constitutional navel-gazing, she should ditch her draft referendum bill immediately.
“People want a Scottish Government that gets back to the day job – sorting out our schools, and using the vast new powers the Scottish Government now has.
“Anything that falls short will simply confirm the fact that this is a First Minister who is still putting the interests of her party before the country.”
Deputy leader of Scottish Labour Alex Rowley said: “The First Minister should rule out forcing another independence referendum on the people of Scotland altogether, not just for the next twelve months
“Labour will not support another independence referendum. More than two million people in Scotland voted to remain in the UK, and that result should be respected.”
Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Lib Dems, commented: “The will-she, won’t-she uncertainty runs the risk of causing considerable and damaging uncertainty to our economy and to the country.
“We have enough uncertainty with Brexit, we don’t need more with independence.