The SNP has set out the option of fighting the next Holyrood election as a de facto independence referendum.
The party is to hold a Special Democracy Conference in March to decide the way forward to secure independence, after the UK Supreme Court ruled in November that the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to hold another vote on the issue.
Following the Supreme Court ruling, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the SNP will fight the next general election as a de facto referendum.
However the SNP’s National Executive Committee (NEC) on Saturday also set out the alternative option of contesting the next Scottish Parliament election in 2026 on that basis.
At the meeting on Saturday, the NEC unanimously agreed the wording of a draft resolution to be debated at the conference in March.
Sturgeon, who is also SNP leader, said: “Westminster is denying democracy because it fears the verdict of the Scottish people on independence.
“There is a cast-iron democratic mandate for a referendum, and this remains the SNP’s preferred route to establishing the will of the people of Scotland.
“However, if Westminster continues to block a referendum – and if Scottish democracy is not to be negated as a result – an alternative democratic means of allowing the people of Scotland to express their will must be found.
“The purpose of the Special Democracy Conference is to allow the SNP to debate and decide which alternative route it wishes to offer the people of Scotland.”
She said that the resolution seeks to enable a “full, free and open” debate.
Sturgeon added: “It sets out – as I did last June – the option of contesting the next Westminster election as a de facto referendum.
“However, in the interests of a full and open debate, it also sets out the alternative option of contesting the next Scottish Parliament election on this basis.
“I am looking forward to the discussions that the party will have in the run-up to and at this important Conference, and I know it will then unite behind a course of action that will enable us to make and win the case for independence.
“While this will be a debate on the process of securing independence, it is one that will be guided by a fundamental principle – that the future of Scotland must and will be decided by the people of Scotland, not by Westminster politicians.
“And it will also be underpinned by the strength of the substantive case for Scotland becoming an independent country.”
The option for contesting the next UK general election as a de facto referendum states: “If a majority of those voting in the election vote SNP – or if the combined votes for the SNP and any other party with which it has reached a pro-independence agreement in advance of the election constitute a majority of votes cast – we will consider that a mandate to enter negotiations with the UK government to secure independence.”
The other option is for the SNP to contest the next UK general election on the issue of securing agreement for a transfer of power to enable the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a referendum.
It states: “The SNP will make clear that it is asking people to vote SNP in that election to indicate support for a referendum.
“If the SNP wins a majority of Scottish seats, it will take the demand for the necessary transfer of power to the UK government.
“Should that demand – backed by the Scottish people – be denied again, the SNP will contest the Scottish Parliament election in 2026 as a de facto referendum.”
A UK Government spokeswoman said: “People in Scotland want both their governments to be concentrating on the issues that matter most to them – like growing our economy, getting people the help they need with their energy bills, and supporting our NHS.
“As the Prime Minister has been clear, we will continue to work constructively with the Scottish Government to tackle our shared challenges.”