A NEW drive to build support for independence is to launch within weeks, SNP sources have revealed.

Nicola Sturgeon received a huge standing ovation at her party's conference in March when she announced that the "initiative", aimed at winning over 2014 no voters, would begin this summer.

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However, with the half way point of summer having already passed, no firm details of what the project entails have emerged. References to the summer start date are also absent from the SNP's website, leading to questions over whether the drive had been shelved or delayed as a result of the EU referendum result, which thrust the issue of independence back to the top of the agenda.

Party sources denied this was the case and said an announcement would be made "very shortly". While insiders admitted the EU result had changed the terms of the independence debate, with Ms Sturgeon now saying a new referendum is "highly likely", the initiative is on course to begin in "late summer".

Some SNP figures believe that the drive should begin as soon as possible, claiming the prospect of Scotland being taken out of the EU against its will would allow the party to win over "new hearts and minds".

However, the prospect of Scotland quitting the UK to remain in the EU throws up a series of complex questions over issues such as currency, borders and trade, which may prove impossible to comprehensively answer until the details of Britain's post-Brexit relationship with Europe is clear.

An SNP source said: "It's no secret that we're in a situation, post-Brexit, in which it's very important to listen to what people have to say about the case for independence. Brexit has influenced the context in which we'll be undertaking this exercise, and it is obviously a factor. But it will be going ahead, we'll be talking to the whole of Scotland."

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Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly that "all options" will be considered in her quest to maintain ties with the EU. While a new referendum is "on the table", said has argued it may be possible for Scotland to remain in the UK and hold on to EU status after Brexit. She has also committed to playing a role in UK-wide Brexit talks ahead of Article 50 - the formal process that will see the UK leave the EU within two years - being triggered.

When she announced the initiative, Ms Sturgeon said her party would be willing to re-examine its own case for independence, which was rejected in 2014. It emerged on Sunday that an internal re-examination of the SNP's currency policy is underway, with an independent Scottish pound emerging as a possible preferred option.

Ms Sturgeon insisted she did not intend to "browbeat" anyone into supporting independence when she announced the drive. SNP figures including the MP Mhairi Black have called for the summer initiative to be a cross-party effort, while Ms Sturgeon has said she is happy to work with other pro-independence groups to build the case for leaving the UK. However, sources at the Scottish Greens, Radical Independence Campaign, RISE and Women for Independence all said they had not been approached about participating in the summer initiative which the SNP has said it would be leading.

Alastair Cameron, Director of pro-UK Scotland in Union campaign group, said the SNP would need more than a summer independence drive to "come up with the answers the people of Scotland are asking for."

He added: "The reality is Scotland does nearly four times as much trade with the UK as it does with Europe, we share a currency, a border and 300 years of history with our friends and neighbours here and there is still no plan to deal with the £15 billion black hole in our finances we would face on day one of independence. Breaking away makes even less sense than it did when Scots rejected it in 2014.

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"While Nicola Sturgeon may be under pressure to give some hope to hardline nationalists every once in a while, as First Minister she has a bigger responsibility to the majority of Scots who don’t want the division and uncertainty of another referendum and expect her to act in the national interest."