Humza Yousaf has said he will consider amendments to a controversial plan which could see the SNP attempt to kickstart independence negotiations with Westminster if the party wins the most Scottish seats in the upcoming general election.
The Scottish First Minister’s comments came as his party’s Westminster leader, Stephen Flynn, said he wanted to see the SNP make gains in that general election – expected to be held sometime next year.
Mr Yousaf and Mr Flynn have jointly put a motion forward to SNP conference next month, which makes clear that winning more seats than any other party north of the border in that vote would see the Scottish Government “empowered to begin immediate negotiations with the UK Government to give democratic effect to Scotland becoming an independent country”.
Long-serving SNP MP Pete Wishart, however, has suggested the motion should be amended, to allow for such talks to take place only if the SNP wins a majority of votes in the election, saying this would give the policy “real democratic credibility”.
Such a change would be in line with former first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s plans to use the next general election as a de facto referendum on independence.
With the matter to be debated at the SNP’s conference in Aberdeen in October, Mr Yousaf said: “We will obviously consider amendments as they come up.
“I would be quite keen, if possible, to look at the amendments. If there are amendments we can take we will look to consider them.”
His comments came as he said the SNP was “going into a general election not to lose seats”, despite polls indicating a resurgence for Scottish Labour.
Mr Yousaf said: “We would like to win as many seats as we possibly can, and we work on the premise we’re going into a general election not to lose seats.
“We will strive to not only win the most seats (but also) to win a majority of seats and to make sure we are the dominant party, the winning party, come that general election.”
He stressed he was “not scared of a debate” on the independence motion, pledging there would be a “really open debate” at the conference.
“There’s those that believe in effectively a de facto referendum, which is 50% plus one, then there is those like myself with a different position.
“If you don’t have a referendum, the next opportunity to test that proposition is in a general election. People know the rules of a general election – the party that wins the most seats wins.
“So we will have that debate during conference.”
Mr Flynn, who was campaigning with the First Minister in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency ahead of next week’s by-election there, said he had “very high expectations for the general election next year”.
The SNP Westminster leader said: “I don’t want to just win the most seats or a majority of seats. I want to make sure we retain every single seat we hold and I want us to go and win some other seats as well.”
He said the Moray seat, currently held by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, who is stepping down as an MP at the next election, was “very much in our headlights as we look to gain more seats in Westminster next year”.