SNP members have backed plans to give “democratic effect to Scotland becoming an independent country” if Humza Yousaf's party wins a majority of seats at the next general election.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf: voters don't see independence as relevant to daily life

That means if the SNP win 29 of Scotland’s 57 constituencies, the First Minister will demand the UK Government start independence negotiations, or begin talks on either a new referendum or devolving the powers to hold a referendum to Holyrood.

The Herald:

Currently, the party has 43 MPs, which means they would push for discussions even if they were to lose 14 seats.

Humza Yousaf and SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn had initially proposed that the talks should start if their party won “most” MPs at the election, but agreed to an amendment changing that to a “majority”.

Pete Wishart, the SNP’s longest-serving MP sought to change that to a “majority of the vote,” effectively turning the next general election into a de facto referendum.

Opening the debate, Mr Yousaf said the party needed to “move on from talking about process to talking about policy, not talking about the how of independence but the why of independence.”

He said the strategy was the "culmination of thousands of discussions" over the last few months and branches. 

"There is no shortcut that will get us to independence.

"I tell you what will: listening, campaigning, persuading. After today's debate, let us agree that we come together and work like you've never worked before to deliver a better future for our country. 

"This party doesn't fear democracy, we embrace it. We all know the fact that Westminster is denying Scotland a democratic referendum.

"Well, that tells you precisely who fears democracy. And no wonder.

"How are they going to persuade the people of Scotland to stay in a Westminster system that is causing people so much hurt? How can they expect us to ever trust them again?"

On the amendments, he said: “I have absolutely some sympathy for the argument that we should make Westminster a de facto referendum.

“I have tons of respect for the individual who's proposing it.

“I believe it's the wrong approach for us to take. I understand why some people propose for the next Westminster election we should set up a bar of 50% plus one of the vote as a mandate for independence, but let's not fall into the trap of setting ourselves a bar that no other party sets itself to win.”

READ MORE: Stephen Flynn admits by-election defeat 'humbling' for SNP

Mr Yousaf said he wanted “page one line one” of the SNP manifesto at the next general election to read “vote SNP for Scotland to become an independent country”.

The First Minister said: “Westminster is denying Scotland a democratic referendum – that tells you precisely who fears democracy and no wonder.”

He told the party faithful that there was "no shortcut that will get us to independence.”

Mr Wishart said the party needed to not play by Westminster rules.

"I want to take Westminster out of the equation," he said. "If they constantly and consistently say no to us, it's time to start to believe them.

"It's time to take this matter into our own hands, it's time to stop asking and time to start asserting."

He said if the party failed to get the votes, then "we simply brush ourselves down, and we get on to the next one, then we get on to the next one after that, and the next one after that. And we keep on doing it until they properly engage, or we win."

SNP MP Joanna Cherry won support from the leadership for her call to establish a constitutional convention. 

"We all know that Scotland can be a successful independent country and take its rightful place on the world stage.

"But how we get there is not straightforward.

"And it must include bringing as many people with us as possible. And that means reaching out to the grassroots movement, and to other pro-independence parties, as well as those who are not yet convinced.

"And I think a constitutional convention can do that." 

The Herald:

Another amendment - which was successful - called for the party to add multiple demands for powers into the party’s manifesto, with the understanding that should an incoming UK Government refuse “consideration should be given to fighting the next Scottish Parliament election in 2026 as a de facto referendum on independence.”

READ MORE: Yousaf to back 'majority of seats' amendment to independence strategy

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard, who proposed the change, said the party could not risk losing the next election, or else the debate on independence “will be closed down and it will be taken off the table.”

“Now there is a good 10% or more gap between those people who say they support independence and those people who say at the moment that they will vote SNP, and closing that down should be central to our election preparations.

“Some will tell you that the reason why that gap’s there is because we're not strident enough about independence.

“But if that were true then surely we would see some growth and support for other minor independence parties, and we will not see a leaching of some of our support to the Labour Party.

“The truth is that there is 10% or more of the Scottish electorate who want Scotland to be an independent country but it is not the main thing on their mind right now. And it is not what is driving them to vote in next year's election.”

Some of the delegates wanted the strategy scrapped entirely. David Buckley said there was no plan in the "fundamentally flawed" proposal for what the party should do when the Prime Minister said "no, get stuffed."'

"There is only one outcome where we might have some leverage over Westminster and that is where the minority Labour Government is wholly dependent on SNP MPs in order to gain power. It's not impossible, but it is extremely unlikely."

During the debate, party members also backed a call to launch a "Scotland-wide independence campaign" by the end of the year. 

Responding to the vote, the Scottish Conservative shadow constitution secretary Donald Cameron said: “This confirms that the SNP are hellbent on using the next General Election as a proxy referendum. They will always put their relentless pursuit of independence above everything else.

“They have agreed to launch another independence campaign by the end of this year and are seeking to put independence for Scotland on the ballot paper.

“Humza Yousaf and the SNP are committed to wasting more taxpayers’ money on independence, rather than addressing the real priorities of Scotland.

“Our country cannot afford another five years of the SNP’s constitutional obsession. That will only ignore the real issues people are facing which deserve urgent attention from Humza Yousaf and the SNP."

Chris McEleny, the former SNP member who first urged the party to back plans for a de-facto referendum was scathing, describing the plan as less a strategy for independence and more a strategy "to try keep Humza Yousaf in a job after the General Election."

 The ex-councillor, who was one of the founding members of Alex Salmond's Alba party said: "Today it seems the SNP position is now that if they lose over 20 seats at the General Election but still win a majority then that will act as a mandate to ask for a referendum for the fifth time.

"We all know what the answer will be."