SENIOR figures in the SNP are discussing whether to include a commitment to hold a EU referendum in its second independence referendum prospectus.

The proposal to hold a vote on the terms of a membership deal negotiated between an independent Scottish Government and the EU was discussed at a seminar for activists last month.

It has now emerged it is the subject of ongoing discussions at high levels in the party after SNP deputy leader Keith Brown told The Herald he was talking to Michael Russell, the SNP President and former Brexit Secretary on the matter.

Mr Russell was among the speakers at the activists' event last month and later confirmed a referendum on the EU deal was “one option” being considered in the party.

“That is one option,” he said. “Countries that join the EU have to show they are willing to do so.

READ MORE: SNP Government paying £700k-a -year civil servants team to update independence 'prospectus'

"You can do that by means of an election in which that is the policy of the government that is elected or by means of a referendum but the people have to show that they want to join ... I wouldn’t be worried whether it was a referendum or an election. All you need to do is to show that the people want that to happen.”

The move could mean a shift away from the position First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlined last April when she said she did not plan to hold a EU referendum if Scotland becomes independent.

Asked about whether he supports a referendum on a deal with the EU if Scotland becomes independent, Mr Brown said: "It is something I will discuss and have discussed with Mike Russell and I will continue to do that."

The Herald then posed the question if he was open to it.

READ MORE: How long would it take an independent Scotland to rejoin the EU?

Mr Brown said: "I would want to listen very carefully to what he had to say. But that will be part of the discussion and those discussions are happening regularly."

Pressed that few countries go into the EU without having a referendum, he added: "That is true but other people would argue that we've had a referendum about going into the EU where Scotland voted for. I'm not talking about the Brexit one, I'm talking about back in the 70s."

Dr Kirsty Hughes, the founder of the former think tank, the Scottish Centre on European Relations, said the EU was always keen to see there is public not just political elite support for a country joining.

She said it was usual practice for prospective member states to have a referendum on the deal.

READ MORE: Why rejoining the EU isn't the unmitigated positive some Yes supporters believe it to be

"A referendum after  talks are complete and before ratification of the accession treaty is the route most new member states have chosen to show this. This is also important for the new state in that there is clear democratic backing for the EU choice. But it is not obligatory," she said.

"If there was an independence referendum in 2023, independence in 2025 and EU accession talks concluded in 2029, then there would be six years between the independence vote and the EU vote. But it's not surprising if the SNP are wary on the one hand of unionists labelling the process a 'neverendum' and also of some on the independence side claiming that the independence vote is not a vote for independence in the EU."

Ms Sturgeon said ahead of the Holyrood election last May that she does not plan to hold a EU referendum if Scotland becomes independent.

She said it would be assumed that Scots want an independent Scotland to join the EU. Ahead of Brexit taking placw, the First Minister suported a second EU vote.

Speaking to journalists in April, she said: “One of the reasons why I thought a second EU referendum became something that could be justified was that the implementation of the Brexit vote was a disaster.

“And that all stemmed from the fact that people were asked to vote in that Brexit referendum without really knowing what Brexit meant, without knowing what form of relationship with the EU would replace membership for the UK.

“And that's why nobody then could find a way of implementing it safely and effectively.

“I don't intend that to be the case with independence. Just as in 2014 people had a detailed prospectus on which to base their vote, that's my intention in a future independence referendum too, and that will involve frank answers about all of the questions people have, including what we see as the journey back to European Union membership.”

This plan would effectively make indyref2 a double referendum, with a vote for independence taken as a vote in favour of EU membership as well.

The current SNP policy on Europe was decided at its conference in 2016 and simply restates its commitment for an independent Scotland to be a full EU member. It does not mention whether there should be a referendum on the EU deal if Scotland becomes independent.

Last month it was revealed that Scottish Goverment ministers had tasked 11 civil servants to draw up new plans for independence – costing up to £700,000 a year.

The president of the SNP welcomed the news, describing civil servants being tasked with updating the case for independence as "democracy in action" after his party secured victory in last year's Holyrood election with a manifesto promise to bring forward another vote on the constitution.

But the news was criticised by the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour.
Scottish Labour MP Ian Murray wrote to the UK's most senior civil servant Simon Case urging him to halt taxpayers funding the second independence prospectus.

Last night the Scottish Conservative's Donald Cameron said: “We know the SNP are already spending £700,000 worth of taxpayers' money on pressing ahead with another divisive independence referendum.

"Now another senior SNP figure is discussing the prospect of a further referendum on a different constitutional issue.

“This clearly shows where the SNP’s true priorities lie, when they should be fully focused on rebuilding our public services after the pandemic."

"This clearly shows where the SNP’s true priorities lie, when they should be fully focused on rebuilding our public services after the pandemic.”