SNP snubs Sturgeon by scrapping conference in March

Nicola Sturgeon announces she is to step down as SNP leader

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The SNP scrapped a key conference planned for March that Nicola Sturgeon hoped would rally support for an election plan to split the UK. SNP bosses decided to ditch the event, which Sturgeon planned to use to get support for her “de-facto referendum” election strategy, on Thursday.

The retired First Minister of Scotland had planned to treat the next general election as a proxy vote over independence following Westminster’s refusal to grant a second referendum.

The UK Supreme court ruled that the Scottish parliament could not stage a referendum without Government approval.

SNP has been divided on whether to adopt Sturgeon’s vision for a single-issue campaign, with some warning it could put off voters who are more concerned about issues like the NHS.

Hours after Sturgeon’s resignation, a group of leading party figures suggested blindly following their old leader’s vision made no sense.

An insider told the Telegraph the party were “hurtling” towards the “unnecessary and unhelpful” conference.

They argued there was no reason for the meeting which would force the strategy on the incoming leader. Instead, he said the leadership election candidates could decide their own platforms.

They said: “I think Nicola is big enough to take the de-facto referendum with her when she leaves. I don’t think it’s a loss of face, it’s just that the idea goes with her.”

In an online meeting Thursday, the National Executive Committee ruled the conference in March would be “postponed” although it remains unclear if and when it will return.

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The party bosses also said nominations for a new leader were opened on Wednesday and are set to close on 24 February.

Votes for the leadership election will be cast between noon Monday 13 March and noon 27 March.

In her leaving speech, Sturgeon claimed her resignation would “free the SNP” to make its own strategic decisions in its battle for independence, yet reminded everyone of her preference for a “de facto referendum”.

Some have interpreted the move away from Sturgeon’s plans as a sign of long-held divisions within the party coming to the fore.

Yesterday, the veteran SNP MP Pete Wishart stood by Sturgeon’s ideas and said the conference should not have been delayed.

He argued it would “probably kill” the “opportunity” to use the next Westminster election as a proxy referendum.

He also claimed even if the party could organise a new conference, it would not give them enough time to plan a campaign.

For many members, the news of the cancelled conference came in the form of an email from Lorna Finn, the SNP national secretary.

It read: “It would be wrong to have a newly elected leader tied to a key decision on how we deliver democracy in Scotland in the face of continued Westminster intransigence.

“Therefore, the party’s Special Democracy Conference, previously planned for Sunday March 19th, is postponed.

“SNP Members – the lifeblood of this party and movement – will be updated in due course on details of a rearranged event once the new party leader is in place.

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