Nicola Sturgeon will raise an army of activists to sell SNP economic plan

nicola sturgeon snp

Nicola Sturgeon has urged SNP activists to hit Scotland’s doorsteps and sell the party’s new economic plan to win independence.

At her party’s conference in Edinburgh, the first minister called on members to help distribute the proposals to the country’s 2.4 million homes.

The prospectus will not be exactly what the SNP leadership had envisaged because it suffered a rare defeat on Saturday when delegates voted to fast-track preparations for a new Scottish currency. Ms Sturgeon did not explicitly mention the currency during her 50-minute speech but instead called on the 1,500 delegates to push the “new economic plan” this summer and help deliver the “household guide”.

She said: “So friends, you know what that means . . . it is time to get your jackets on. We will set out an alternative to the inevitable economic decline of Brexit.”

The SNP’s plans are based upon the sustainable growth commission report, published last year, which some SNP activists said was too conservative.

The rebel amendment committed the Scottish government to take steps that would enable Holyrood to authorise preparations for a new currency as soon as practicable after independence.

The party leadership said that a key part of the report, that six economic tests must be met before the pound could be scrapped, had survived the vote.

Ms Sturgeon had been buoyed by two polls over the weekend, in The Times and The Sunday Times, that showed increased support for independence. The Sunday Times survey, carried out by Panelbase, found that Scots were 53 per cent to 47 per cent in favour of staying in the UK but would switch to backing independence by 52 per cent to 48 per cent after a no-deal Brexit. That is an increase of four percentage points since the last comparable poll in October.

However, Kevin Pringle, the former SNP strategist who helped mastermind the party’s 2011 election win that paved the way for the 2014 referendum, dealt party morale a blow by claiming that Ms Sturgeon’s two-year timescale for a new vote was unrealistic. The British government has refused to countenance such a vote but Ms Sturgeon said that surging support for independence could help to bring about a change.

She made an overt plea to groups who voted No five years ago and challenged supporters to abandon adversarial debate on doorsteps and online.

New domestic policies were also announced including a £150 million scheme to provide loans to help first-time buyers put down a deposit. Buyers will be required to put up a minimum of 5 per cent of the value of their new house from their own funds. The low-interest loan, which will be secured on the equity of the home, could be used to top up deposits by up to £25,000.

The Scottish government will also consult on an Airbnb tax under a new system of regulations on short-term letting that the first minister said would give councils greater control over the number of lets and “ensure they make a contribution to the services they use”.

Adam Tomkins, the Scottish Conservative shadow constitution secretary, said: “With her chaotic plan to dump the pound and push ahead with an unwanted referendum, Nicola Sturgeon has made it clear this weekend that she is more interested in her party’s narrow priorities, not those of the majority in Scotland.”

Richard Leonard, the Scottish Labour leader, said that scrapping the pound would “ramp up austerity and force hundreds of thousands of families with mortgages to gamble their house, pensions and savings on an untested new currency”.