THE SNP must galvanise its new members and re-establish links with other Yes supporters ready for another independence referendum, deputy leadership contender Tommy Sheppard has said.
The Edinburgh East MP said the Scottish Government was exploring all options for ways of keeping Scotland in the EU, but in the end it could conclude independence was the only way.
He said if he became deputy leader he wanted to use the role to inspire and develop the membership and prepare for a possible IndyRef 2.
He predicted it would take until spring next year to complete discussions with the UK government on “whether Scotland can be included in the Brexit plan in a way that guarantees us a special relationship and allows us to keep our European passports”.
He said: “Who knows, they may pull one out of the hat, it may be possible to devise a constitutional arrangement that keeps Scotland in the UK and in the EU. There might be a way of doing that.
“But given there is a significant possibility they will say ‘B***** off, Brexit means Brexit, you’ve had your vote’, we have to say to people that the UK they voted for in 2014 is no longer there.
“And in the same way you take goods back to the shop if they’re faulty, people might want their vote back.”
He said no-one knew when another referendum might be held. “We’re all staring into the unknown at the minute but given there is the possibility we might be in that situation, we have to start preparing now.
“As a party we need to quickly absorb and harness the energy of all the new members who have joined in the last few years, many of whom have not got beyond signing up and giving their money.
“We need to get more of these people active, get them trained and focused.
“But in parallel we also need to be constantly looking beyond our membership. This is already happening – SNP branches are now effectively getting the band back together, linking up with other people and having discussions with people under the old Yes umbrella.
“The next six months is going to be a process of having that intense discussion.”
He said public opinion was in flux, with some people already convinced independence was the answer and others waiting to see what happened.
“We need to get people who voted No last time – and did so in quite a balanced, nuanced way having weighed up the arguments – and get them to say ‘does what has happened change the balance of the argument?’.
“The future of the country is in the hands of No voters because they are the ones who have to change their minds.”
He said the SNP needed to approach another referendum in “a very respectful and inclusive way”.
“None of us is saying we told you so and I’m not saying you have to join us. I’m saying come and have a discussion, be part of a dialogue.”
In the deputy leadership contest, Mr Sheppard is up against SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson, MEP Alyn Smith and Invercylde councillor Chris McEleny.