SNP to seek Scottish independence talks even if party loses 20 MPs at next general election | Politics News
SNP leader Humza Yousaf has rejected suggestions it would be “ludicrous” for his party to open formal independence negotiations, even if he loses 20 seats at the next general election.
Ahead of the SNP’s annual conference, Mr Yousaf also told Sky News it is difficult for his party to make progress “the longer” the major police investigation examining its funding and finances continues.
The SNP’s independence strategy has chopped and changed in the past 12 months as the party became engulfed in unprecedented scandal.
Nicola Sturgeon previously pledged to turn the next general election into a “de facto” referendum. She suggested winning more than 50% of the votes in Scotland would be the same as a result to begin talks over Scotland’s exit from the UK.
Ms Sturgeon quit as leader in February before being arrested as part of the police probe. She was released without charge and insists she is “certain” she has done nothing wrong.
Her replacement, Mr Yousaf, later proposed that winning “most” seats in 2024 would open the door to Downing Street negotiations.
It has now been suggested SNP activists could vote at their Aberdeen conference this weekend to switch the wording to a “majority” of seats.
Mr Yousaf told Sky News he is “open” to the tweak, which would set the bar at 29 seats. The SNP secured 48 MPs in 2019.
During an interview in Glasgow, Scotland’s first minister was questioned whether it was credible to suggest a scenario where the nationalists secure just one more seat than Labour at the 2024 election, and that equating to a clear mandate to trigger independence discussions.
He was asked about a hypothetical situation where Labour could get 23 seats and the SNP drops from 48 seats to 24.
The first minister replied: “If you win the most seats, you tend to be the winner of the general election.
“If you are denying the Scottish people the choice over their own future then the next election, we can test that proposition. In a general election, the rules are pretty simple – those that win most seats, win the general election.”
Mr Yousaf said he would seriously consider a switch to the majority of seats when party members finalise the plan on Sunday.
He added: “Let’s remember before the referendum in 2014 we were at six seats so actually that number will undoubtedly fluctuate election to election.”
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Police Scotland told Sky News that the SNP finance investigation – dubbed Operation Branchform – is continuing.
The Crown Office, the body which will decide whether or not to charge individuals, said it has received no complaints about the probe so far.
Mr Yousaf agreed the police probe has “hurt” the SNP.
He said: “Of course it has… the longer the police investigation goes on, then the more difficult it is going to be for the party.
“I respect the police has to take whatever time it feels necessary.”