Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation could prompt a major rethink around the SNP’s plans for indyref2, the party’s Westminster leader has suggested.
The first minister previously announced her intention to fight the next UK general election as a de facto referendum on independence.
Following the decision of the UK Supreme Court that Holyrood could not legislate for another referendum on its own, a special conference was scheduled for 19 March to discuss the next steps.
But with Ms Sturgeon’s surprise announcement of her resignation on Wednesday, the conference has now been cast into doubt.
‘I think it’s sensible that we do hit the pause button’
SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn told Sky News that the party was in an “incredibly strong position” but the conference should be postponed to allow for a leadership race and for the new first minister to set out their vision.
He said: “The de facto referendum was obviously put forward by the first minister and we were going to be discussing and debating the merits of that at that party conference.
“I personally think that party conference should be paused, for obvious reasons.
“I think the new leader should have the opportunity and indeed the space to set out their position, their values and their intentions going forward.
“So that would be my take in relation to that. I think it’s sensible that we do hit the pause button on that conference and allow the new leader the opportunity to set out their vision.”
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‘A new leader will wish to revisit the strategy’
Fergus Ewing MSP, who has been a vocal opponent of the Scottish government’s plans to launch its bottle deposit return scheme in August, also does not believe the conference should go ahead.
The SNP MSP for Inverness and Nairn told Sky News: “A new leader will wish to revisit the strategy and the party focus now will obviously be on the leadership contest.
“The contest is indeed an opportunity to discuss and debate how we advance our cause, and what changes of approach will assist that.
“Changes of approach are required to rebuild relationships with business, to focus more on delivery of a strong stable economy, which is essential for us to build further support for independence, and also to deliver on the bread and butter issues that matter most to people in Scotland.”
Rebel SNP MSP Ash Regan, who resigned as community safety minister over the controversial Gender Recognition Reform Bill, also backs the idea of moving the conference.
Both Ms Regan and Joanna Cherry MP are also calling for all members who left the party in the last year to be allowed to rejoin to participate in the leadership election.