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Diminished SNP conference hints at worse to come for party – even after independence dream kicked into long grass | UK News

This is a conference with various elephants in the room. 

Delegates are gathering in what should have been the final moments of a second Scottish independence referendum campaign.

Nicola Sturgeon had this Thursday, the 19th of October 2023, in the diary for Scots to go back to the polls to decide the nation’s future.

It is a diary event that has been well and truly scrubbed.

What a different world the SNP is orbiting in now.

Engulfed in a police finance probe, arrests of once prominent party figures, a defecting MP, a disaster in a key by-election and the polls predicting grim electoral fortunes.

Humza Yousaf, the new figurehead of the nationalist movement, has been firefighting from the start.

He is under pressure from breathless independence supporters while trying to appeal to the wider Scottish public who have been governed by SNP policies for 16 years.

Senior SNP sources recognise they now must play the long game when it comes to any future departure from the UK.

Dream kicked into long grass

Yousaf said himself his party has hit a roadblock.

Downing Street has repeatedly said ‘now is not the time’ and it is a strategy that has worked for the long cast list of recent prime ministers.

The dial has not really moved in terms of polls showing support for independence. It has sat at around 50 per cent for years.

The FM and his inner circle know his dream has been kicked into the long grass, but convincing his grassroots members is the biggest challenge – who are frustrated at the lack of action.

This weekend’s conference in Aberdeen is diminished compared to others that have gone before.

The crowd has been plotting a new strategy after binning Sturgeon’s plan of declaring independence after getting 50% +1 of the vote in the next general election.

One SNP MP told me privately that the leadership needs to “stop boxing us into a corner”.

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Worse could be on the way for the SNP

The first minister hopes to ‘open’ formal discussions with the UK government if his party secures the majority of Scottish seats in the 2024 vote.

Labour is sitting back and watching the turmoil unfold as Keir Starmer feels emboldened after wiping the floor with the SNP in the recent Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election.

As the politics plays out, Yousaf will attempt to link the economic chaos facing families amid the cost of living crisis with the lack of access to a second independence vote.

But will it work?

Recent political tests have been tough, but the worst could still be to come for a party who have dominated and set the agenda for so long.

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