THE SNP’s depute leader has said the party wants to see the end of the coronavirus pandemic partly for “selfish” campaign reasons.

Keith Brown said creating a “Covid safe environment” would let the Yes movement fully mobilise for a second independence referendum.

More than 10,000 Scots have died from confirmed or suspected Covid.

Mr Brown made the comment, which is open to accusations of poor taste, in a new Herald podcast with the former BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor.

Mr Brown also said a post-independence hard trade border with England would be “self-harm” when arguing it would be perverse of London not to negotiate away any problems with it.

Nicola Sturgeon, the only party leader not to take part in the podcast series, has said she wants Indyref2 before 2024, with independence itself in 2026.

The SNP manifesto for this week’s Holyrood election said the referendum should be “once the immediate Covid crisis has passed but in good time to quip our powers it needs to drive our long-term recovery from Covid”.

Mr Brown, SNP depute leader and standing campaigns director since June 2018, revealed another factor when asked about the timing.

He said it would be “when the Covid pandemic allows it to be conducted in a safe environment.

“That’s the right and responsible thing to do. It also means that the government - if the SNP are re-elected to government - will be focused on making sure that Scotland has that Covid safe environment.

“That’s very important.

“And also there’s a selfish reason as well, because my party and the movement for independence is by far the biggest in terms of activity, in terms of campaigning, that there is in Scotland, and we want to be able to do that. So, safety first, the Covid environment determines when that can be safely held.”

Under SNP plans, an independent Scotland would rejoin the EU, meaning the border with England would also be a tightly regulated EU external border.

Ms Sturgeon has admitted that would mean “practical difficulties” for business, but insists these could be resolved in negotiations, although she had yet to say how exactly.

Asked about potential problems across the border if a post-Brexit UK played hardball, Mr Brown said: “I just would not understand why a country would want to indulge in that kind of self harm. But if they do that there has to be a negotiation and a discussion.”

Mr Brown also refused to rule out the SNP working with Alex Salmond’s Alba Party in the next parliament, despite “fundamental differences” such as Alba’s “bizarre” notion of a supermajority of Yes MSPs and for independence talks immediately after the election.

Mr Brown said: “I’m happy to work with others in the independence movement that want to work towards independence. The SNP has never said to anybody else, Don’t campaign for independence, if that’s what they want to do.

“But there are fundamental differences. For example, the idea of a super majority I just think is bizarre. The idea you would try to imply that Scotland’s got to reach a higher threshold [than] any other country in the world before it gets its right to exercise self determination, I don’t agree with that.

“I don’t agree with the Alba party in saying they want to immediately move to independence post the election, whether that’s a referendum or whatever it is they propose.

“I don’t agree with that. I think we have to wait until we have a safe environment.

“So they, of course, can put forward their arguments. I’m happy to put forward the arguments for the SNP. And we’ll see what the electorate decide next week.”

Pressed on his refusal to rule out working with Alba, Mr Brown said: “Well I’ve mentioned first of all the fundamental differences that we have. I don’t know more about their agenda.

“I do not know more about their other policies. But on the issue of the supermajority, which they’ve talked about, I fundamentally disagree with it.

“And the idea of going for nearly referendum, or whatever the latest proposal is, I don’t agree with that. I don’t see the basis for joint working in those terms.

“But we’ll wait and see what electorate say, and as things stand the electorate say it’s unlikely we’ll see Alba MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.”

He said he had not talked to Mr Salmond “for a number of years”.

Asked about a timescale for independence, Mr Brown said: “Certainly to have the referendum during the next parliament, and it will depend on the proposition that we put forward how long that delay is between the referendum and the first independent elections, whether that comes within the next term.

“But I don’t see any reason why we could not achieve that within a five-year timescale.”

Pressed on the five-year timeframe, Mr Brown said: “It depends. It depends on what the offer is. We have got still to… get the mandate from the Scottish people at this election.

“Once we’ve done that, if we achieve that, we will then put a proposition before the people of Scotland. And that will include things like timetables. But yes, certainly within the next ten years, I think it’s perfectly possible for Scotland to become independent.”

‘The Brian Taylor Podcast’ can be found on Spotify and Apple Music from 9am today.