Scotland would not necessarily have to have a second independence referendum to leave the United Kingdom, a senior SNP MP has said.
Instead of having another vote on independence, Joanna Cherry suggested the party’s over-arching goal could be achieved through a “democratic event”.
The pro UK camapign group Scotland in Union branded the comments “dangerous and ill judged”, and called on SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon to “urgently clarify” the situation.
Ms Cherry raised the possibility as the SNP Annual Conference got under way in Glasgow, also indicating her party could demand a second vote on independence as the price of supporting Labour if Jeremy Corbyn ousted Theresa May from Downing Street but failed to win an overall majority.
In such a situation Ms Cherry, the SNP’s home affairs spokeswoman at Westminster, stressed her party would demand a “high price” from Jeremy Corbyn.
A deal to prop up a minority Labour administration could include the removal of Trident nuclear missiles from Scotland, and the granting of a Section 30 for a second ballot on leaving the UK.
But she also said another “democratic event”, such as a general election, could be used as a route to independence.
Speaking at a fringe event at the conference, Ms Cherry told party activists: “Our aim is to make Scotland an independent country, but I would remind you that Scotland voted against that in 2014.”
She continued: “There has to be a democratic event, and I choose those words wisely, it doesn’t have to necessarily be a referendum, it could be something else, like a general election. But there has to be a democratic event.”
Ms Cherry had vowed that SNP politicians would “push for more powers for Holyrood” while waiting for independence.
But with Mrs May’s Tory government “on the ropes” in the run up to Britain’s departure from the European Union, Ms Cherry said the coming months would be “redolent with possibility”.
Arguments for a referendum on the final terms of the Brexit deal are gaining in strength, she said, adding that a general election was another possibility.
The Edinburgh South West MP said “We have to see how things develop, but it seems to me that the idea of a second vote on the EU is building up a head of steam, and that can be used to our advantage, it’s in our interests to keep the whole of the UK in the single market and the customs union.
“The chances of a general election could be used to our advantage because I think we would have a good chance of getting the Tories out of office. Labour will probably not win with an outright majority but they might be looking to a large - and a larger number than at present - of SNP MPs for support.
“We would ask for a high price for support, such Stewart McDonald our defence spokesman is talking about getting rid of Trident, I’ve talked about saying a section 30 order would be the price of our support.”
Scotland in Union chief executive Pamela Nash said: “These dangerous and ill-judged comments from Joanna Cherry show that the SNP is determined to achieve independence by any means possible.
“We know that Scotland does not want a divisive and unnecessary second independence referendum, so SNP politicians are concocting ways to bypass the views of voters. Nicola Sturgeon must urgently clarify this situation.”