The SNP must acknowledge the potential downsides of independence in order to win over those who voted No in 2014, a depute leadership candidate has said.

The party's Westminster leader Angus Robertson said the prospect of Scottish independence was closer than it had ever been in the wake of the vote to leave the European Union (EU).

READ MORE: SNP doubled its income from membership after thousands joined in wake of referendum

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He denied suggestions the SNP's White Paper blueprint painted too rosy a picture of independence in 2014 but said an "appropriate case" would be needed for the current circumstances.

The Moray MP is pitching himself as the candidate of experience in the four-way contest to replace Stewart Hosie, who quit after newspaper disclosures about an affair.

READ MORE: SNP doubled its income from membership after thousands joined in wake of referendum

He was pressed on whether he agreed with party colleague George Kerevan MP that Scotland could face five years of spending cuts in the event of a Yes vote during an interview on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme on the final day for nominations for the depute leader post.

Mr Robertson said: "I don't share all of George Kerevan's analysis but, of course, I think it is incumbent on politicians of all political persuasions to say that not everything is going to be easy and, of course, establishing a sovereign state is a big step, and I think we need to be clear with the electorate and that's why part of my pitch in this SNP depute leadership election campaign is that I think we need to be outward-focused.

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"We shouldn't be relying on the 45% of people who decided in favour of independence in 2014, we need to be aiming at the 100% of voters in Scotland, and particularly those 55% of voters who were not convinced.

"For some of them, the reason why they weren't convinced was they thought that the explanation of why independence was a good thing didn't concede that there were potential downsides and, of course, if one takes responsibility for oneselves it is entirely possible that one makes bad decisions, that there are downsides to things."

He added: "I thought the White Paper was an excellent prospectus for the 2014 referendum but if and when we come to having to make a renewed decision on the basis of protecting Scotland's place in Europe, I think we're going to have to make the appropriate case for the time in which we find ourselves."

READ MORE: SNP doubled its income from membership after thousands joined in wake of referendum

SNP activists are due to debate a second independence referendum at the party's conference in Glasgow later this year.

Mr Robertson said: "Since 2014 our membership has gone through the roof, there's more than 120,000 SNP members now and we've got to do everything that we can to help enthuse and engage all of those members as the prospects for independence are frankly closer than they have ever been."

He said he did not accept that there would be SNP voters who voted Yes in 2014 who might switch to No as they would not want to be part of the EU.

READ MORE: SNP doubled its income from membership after thousands joined in wake of referendum

The MP said: "It is true, yes, SNP members did vote to leave the European Union but I think when the choice is presented, as I believe it is possible that it will be within a short period of time, that people would prefer the option of Scotland being a sovereign state, being able to decide on its future course of action."

The other candidates standing for depute leader are MEP Alyn Smith, MP Tommy Sheppard and councillor Christopher McEleny.

Labour MSP James Kelly said: "At a time when our public services are already facing significant cuts, and more uncertainty with Brexit, we now see senior SNP figures admit that independence would mean even more cuts to our public services like schools and hospitals - but they won't say where the axe will fall.

"Leaving the UK would mean cuts over and above anything the Tories are already imposing. That's the reality the SNP must face up to

"Angus Robertson and the other deputy candidates spent two years during the referendum pretending that independence wouldn't mean more cuts and this year's election campaign refusing to use the tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts. Why did they not speak up earlier?

"Labour has given Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government our full support to act in good faith to find a solution that maintains our relationship with the EU and keeps us in the UK."