De facto referendum still an option, SNP minister says

Jamie Hepburn said the SNP would lay out the details of its approach to independence at the event.

De facto referendum ‘part of discussion’ at independence convention SNP minister Jamie Hepburn PA Media

The option of a de facto referendum will be part of discussions at the SNP’s special convention on independence, the Scottish Government’s minister for independence has said.

Jamie Hepburn said the SNP would lay out the details of its approach to independence at the event on June 24, but any route would have to be legal.

The party announced the special convention will take place in Dundee, with the sole focus of “how Scotland is able to hold a legally binding independence referendum”.

Speaking to the BBC’s Sunday Show, Hepburn said the Scottish Government had a mandate to make the case for independence.

He said: “We will hold an SNP independence convention on the June 24 which will provide party members an opportunity to come together to discuss the road ahead, discuss what our platform will be in advance of the 2024 general election.

“I can certainly say independence will be front and centre.”

Asked if the possibility of a de facto referendum approach was still on the table, he said: “The First Minister has said that so long as it’s rightly within the parameters of a legal, electoral route no option should be taken off the table.

“So that will form part of our discussion.”

A concept raised by Nicola Sturgeon, a de facto referendum would involve treating the votes for the SNP at a general election as votes for independence.

Some in the SNP, including former leadership candidate Ash Regan, have called for an independence convention to include groups outside the SNP.

Hepburn was also quizzed on why he did not attend a pro-independence march organised by the campaign group All Under One Banner.

He said: “I’ve nothing against going to marches and nothing against going to rallies, that can be an important part of demonstrating that we’re not going anywhere.

“But we’re not going to win independence by marching and rallying alone.”

He said he had been speaking to his constituents on the weekend in question.

Writing in the Sunday National newspaper, Humza Yousaf also pledged a “summer of independence campaign activity” which would “take our positive message to every corner of the country”.

He said the party was working hard to organise regional independence assemblies, something he pledged on the campaign trail for the SNP leadership.

Commenting on Hepburn’s remarks, Conservative MSP Donald Cameron said: “Jamie Hepburn couldn’t have made it more obvious that the SNP have no intention of tackling Scotland’s real priorities.

“They’re having yet another conference, just for their members, on how to break up the UK – something Scots decisively rejected.”

He added: “Jamie Hepburn couldn’t advance a single reason why Scotland would be better off if we left the UK, because there isn’t one.

“He couldn’t come up with any idea of how to do it, because he hasn’t got one.

“He made it obvious that his post as Minister for Independence is a pointless one, designed to placate his party’s supporters, but funded by ordinary Scots who reject this divisive message.”

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