Veteran MP Pete Wishart said it would not be “credible” or “realistic” for the First Minister to “try and assert some sort of move towards independence” without the support of the majority of Scots.
The motion for the conference, proposed by Mr Yousaf and SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, states that “if the SNP subsequently wins the most seats at the general election in Scotland, the Scottish Government is empowered to begin immediate negotiations with the UK Government to give democratic effect to Scotland becoming an independent country”.
That means if the SNP has at least one more seat than the next largest party they will either start negotiations with whoever is in No 10 on leaving the UK or hold talks on a second independence referendum.
Those talks could be aimed at either agreeing to a date for a new vote or on devolving the powers necessary to hold a plebiscite to Holyrood.
Speaking to LBC, Mr Wishart said he would back an amendment to Mr Yousaf’s motion: “I’ve always been of the view that the only way we will ever secure any credibility, particularly for trying to assert our independence in an international forum has to be on the back of the consent of the majority of the people of Scotland not in the majority of seats.”
He added: “I don’t think it’s credible and realistic to try and assert some sort of move towards independence if you’re not carrying the majority of people with you.
“And that’s why I really hope that when we get to conference and we’re looking at the best way forward for our independence strategy that we do move from seats to votes because it’s the only way that I believe that we’ll be able to express a view about our independence status and the only credible way to ensure that we will at least get some sort of hearing by international organisations.”
“I’ve always been of the view that the only way we will ever secure any credibility, particularly for trying to assert our independence in international fora has to be on the back of the consent of the majority of the people of Scotland not in the majority of seats.
— @GinaDavidson (@ginadavidsonlbc) September 15, 2023
The comments from the party’s longes serving MP were put to Mr Yousaf during a by-election campaign stop at the ACE nursery in Burnside.
The First Minister said he was confident the party faithful would back the plan at the Aberdeen conference.
“I’m not shy of debate, not scared of debate. We certainly shouldn’t be scared to debate about the question of independence,” he said.
Asked directly about Mr Wishart’s remarks, the First Minister said: “Our Plan A remains, of course, to test the proposition for popular support.
“Not me, not Peter Wishart, nobody in the SNP is rejecting that, nobody in the SNP is blocking that from happening. It’s the Westminster parties.
“So we have to accept that they’re not going to allow us to test our proposition for popular support.
“So I believe we have to use the next electoral means to do that, the next election will be a means to test that proposition.
“And the way we will test it is by the rules of a general election. He who wins the more seats wins that general election.
“That’s been the case since records began. What I would say to Pete and others, is it’s definitely worth a debate on this question, hence why we’ll be having that debate in the best traditions of the SNP at SNP conference next month.”
Asked why he thought the other parties would accept the SNP winning the most seats at the next election as a mandate, he said that was a question for the other parties.
“What right do they have to continue to deny us mandate after mandate after mandate that we secure?”
He said his job was “to persuade as many people as possible to support the proposition of independence, and it will be once we have that consistent majority support that we will undoubtedly have our independence.”
The First Minister admitted that the next general election was going to be “really difficult” for his party.
“We know Labour are biting at our heels,” he said.
“And that’s why we will put our alternative front and centre and independence is the alternative. Labour isn’t offering an alternative: retaining the two-child cap, the bedroom tax, the rape clause, our place outside of Europe. That’s not a real alternative.”
Meanwhile, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor was also in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, though only speaking to a small group of hand-picked journalists.
Asked about the SNP motion while campaigning, she told the Press Association: “No, we wouldn’t consider that a mandate in any way to have another referendum.
“The SNP are now just doubling down on a core vote strategy, not interested in changing the lives of people in Scotland, but focusing narrowly on constitutional issues.
“I don’t think that those are issues that resonate with people here in Rutherglen, or indeed across Scotland.
“This is not the time for a referendum. This is the time to focus on the cost-of-living crisis and sorting out our public services.”