First Minster sets out election plan to end 'Westminster roadblock' to independence
Scotland's First Minister has rejected calls for the SNP to need to secure more than half of all votes cast north of the border in the next general election to start independence negotations with Westminster.
Humza Yousaf, the SNP leader, insisted that adopting this de facto referendum approach, that had been favoured by his predecessor Nicola Sturgeon, would see the party "setting ourselves a bar no other party sets itself".
The First Minister, speaking as his party debated its strategy for independence, said the current "Westminster roadblock" to holding a second referendum required the SNP to "use the next general election to put independence front and centre".
The SNP annual conference in Aberdeen is debating his proposal for the Scottish Government to "begin immediate negotiations with the UK Government to give democratic effect to Scotland becoming an independent country" if the party wins the most seats in Scotland in the next general election, which is expected to take place some time next year.
Mr Yousaf said he backed an amendment to require the SNP to win a majority of Scottish seats in the general election to achieve this.
However while he said he had "some sympathy" for those who favoured a de facto referendum approach, he could not support this.
Mr Yousaf said he did not back an amendment from long-standing SNP MP Pete Wishart which would require the party to win a majority of the vote in the next general election.
The SNP leader urged his party: "Let's not fall into the trap of setting ourselves a bar no other party sets itself to win.
"If the Westminster parties want a test for popular support (for) the proposition of independence, let's do it via a referendum. If they give us the powers I will hold the referendum tomorrow.
"But in an election a majority of seats is a victory, plain and simple."
Mr Yousaf said he wanted "page one line one" of the SNP manifesto for the general election to urge people to "vote SNP for Scotland to become an independent country".
His comments came as he claimed that "Westminster is running scared and denying democracy".
Mr Yousaf said: "Westminster is denying Scotland a democratic referendum - that tells you precisely who fears democracy and no wonder."
But he added: "Being honest the fact is we have hit a Westminster roadblock, so if they are going to deny us a referendum let us use the next general election to put independence front and centre."
He went on: "While setting our Westminster goal as winning a majority of seats....if we win that majority that will be our mandate to begin negotiations with the UK Government of how to put into democratic effect the decision of the Scottish people."
His comments came as he insisted the need for Scotland to become independent had never "been more urgent" as people struggle amid the cost-of-living crisis.
"Now is the time to inspire people to show them the better country we can build with the powers of independence," the SNP leader said.
However he stressed to his party's supporters that there "is no short cut that will get us to independence", with Mr Yousaf arguing that "listening, campaigning, persuading" were necessary.
He added: "After today's debate let us agree we come together and work like we have never worked before to deliver a better future for our country."
Proposing an amendment calling for a change to a "majority" of the vote, Mr Wishart said the approach would present a "credible and realistic route" to independence.
He also urged delegates to reject an amendment by fellow MP Tommy Sheppard which called for the party's manifesto to demand the "permanent transfer of legal powers" to hold an independence referendum.
Mr Wishart said: "By all means, vote for amendment A if you want, but all you are actually going to be doing is giving Westminster something new to say no to."
He added: "Our one job is to deliver a result which demonstrates that a majority of the people of Scotland want to become an independent nation.
"It will give us the real credibility when we approach international institutions, we will have Scotland's express consent to redesign our relationship with Westminster."