THE SNP is to select candidates for the upcoming European elections in case Brexit is delayed or cancelled, the Herald on Sunday can reveal.

Nicola Sturgeon’s party will vet hopefuls in the next few weeks, while the Scottish Greens and Liberal Democrats are also exploring the idea in light of the current Brexit chaos.

A senior SNP source said the move would send a “powerful signal” that scrapping Brexit is becoming a serious option.

The UK is set to leave the EU on March 29th, with or without a deal on the terms of departure.

The next elections to the European Parliament are scheduled for May, but the UK voters will not elect any MEPs as the country is scheduled to have left the EU.

However, given that the UK Government’s draft withdrawal plan was comprehensively rejected by MPs last year, a range of options have moved into view.

These include a no deal Brexit, which will occur if MPs fail to ratify an agreement struck with EU negotiators, and a second referendum.

It is also possible for the UK to delay Brexit by requesting an extension to the Article 50 process which will lead to the UK leaving in March.

And, as a result of a court case brought about by Scottish politicians, the UK can cancel Brexit by revoking Article 50.

One of the ‘delay’ models is extending the leave date by a few months, by which point the new round MEPs will have taken their seats.

It would also be possible, but politically harder, to extend Article 50 for a substantially longer period.

At a recent meeting of the SNP’s national executive committee (NEC), senior councillor Chris McEleny, who has contested his party’s depute leadership election, is said to have raised the issue of the next European elections.

It is understood he said the SNP, which favours a second referendum on leaving the EU, should select MEP candidates because it is possible Brexit may not go ahead.

A source said: “Chris said that if Article 50 is revoked or extended then Scotland will still require representation in the European Parliament, and so it would be diligent to have candidates in place.”

Keith Brown, the SNP’s Depute Leader, confirmed the move to this newspaper:

“The SNP is open to candidate applications for the 2019 European Parliament election. We are working on the basis that the party will be vetting and selecting people to stand in the coming weeks.

“As we are calling for the extension of Article 50 negotiation period between the UK and European Union - to avoid the cliff edge of a no deal at the the end of March - it is vital we prepare for such a shift.

“I look forward to seeing who comes forward from the wealth of talent that exists in our mass membership ranks."

A spokesperson for the Scottish Greens said: "With the deal dead and a Commons majority against No Deal, staying in has gone from a pipe dream to one of the most viable options. Preparing for a potential election is both the most responsible thing to do and a clear statement of intent. We intend to beat Brexit and and we're increasingly confident that we can."

A Scottish Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: “We are making the preparations necessary to enable us to ballot all our members to select our Euro candidates if there is to be a European election.”

In a recent article, the Institute for Government think tank laid out four options for the UK continuing to have some form of representation in Brussels during an extension period.

One of the stated options is to elect new MEPs until the end of the Article 50 period. “The UK would hold European Parliament elections this year, although not necessarily at the same time as the rest of the EU. This option would only make sense if there was an extended extension.”