A GATHERING of grassroots independence supporters has backed using a UK General Election as a de facto referendum following the resignation of Nicola Sturgeon, while a new poll has put independence support at 48%.

An online survey carried out at the Scottish Independence Congress held yesterday found most delegates – 70% – supported using the Westminster election, which was initially proposed by Sturgeon, as a mandate to negotiate independence if successful.

Just under 10% want to see the next Holyrood election used instead, while a similar proportion backed changing the law to hold an early Scottish election. A total of 10.6% wanted to see a UK General Election used to pursue another mandate for a referendum.

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, founder of Believe in Scotland, said: “That is a real solid result that that’s what we think and that’s what we’re going to say to the new leader of the SNP.”

An exclusive poll commissioned by Believe in Scotland, just before the First Minister announced her ­resignation last Wednesday, found support for Yes at 48% compared to 52% for No.

The survey of 2006 Scottish residents aged 16+ between February 6-13 was carried out by Panelbase.

It shows an increase in support for independence compared to a recent poll published by Lord Ashcroft, which was conducted between January 26 and February 3, and found 44% support for Yes and 56% for No.

More than 300 people attended the congress, with 241 voting delegates from 126 local Yes groups.

Participants from Orkney to Elgin were also asked if they thought pro-independence parties – particularly the SNP – had done enough to explain and promote the benefits of Scottish independence.

Just over 90% said no, while only 3.5% agreed that enough had been done, and another 5.5% said they did not know.

In response, MacIntyre-Kemp said: “This is the Yes movement saying, ‘raise your game, get your focus on independence, cause we’re not happy’.”

A panel was hosted at the congress by founding editor of The National Richard Walker, with MacIntyre-Kemp and National columnists ­Lesley Riddoch and Kelly Given ­discussing Sturgeon’s resignation and the impact this has on Yes.

Riddoch put forward the idea of organising a a march in Edinburgh as soon as possible to counter the narrative that independence is now dead.

She said: “I think we have to get out there, as soon as there’s an SNP leader appointed the narrative will all shift to be about that leader.”

Delegates at the congress also heard representatives from the SNP, Greens and Alba set out their views on a de facto referendum in a series of interviews carried out before Sturgeon announced her resignation.

All agreed that the best way forward would be to replicate the Section 30 order which led to the referendum in 2014, but had differing views on what to do as the UK Government continues to block that route.

SNP president Michael Russell backed the idea of using the UK General Election as a de facto referendum, arguing the timing would be better and it would also provide the campaign with a date to aim for.

Asked what would happen if the UK Government just ignored the result of a de facto referendum, he said there had also been initial resistance to holding the first independence referendum.

“There was a continued period after the 2011 election in Scotland [where] they kept saying we are not going to do it – but actually behind the scenes people were beginning to say this is not tenable, we have to now move to a reasonable position,” he said. “I think a plebiscite election with a clear outcome to independence…in the end a result is a result and I am confident over a period of time it will be observed.”

Scottish Greens MSP Ross Greer also backed using the Westminster election as a de facto referendum to secure a mandate for independence.

Appearing virtually, Greer said it would be preferable to waiting until the 2026 Holyrood election: “Putting this on the ballot paper at an election to a Parliament with power over the constitution makes it very, very clear that we are fighting this on the basis of the right election, election to the place that actually has the power to achieve this.”

Alba MP Kenny MacAskill called for an independence convention to be held as part of a series of steps towards a referendum to be held in October this year.

He said pressure should be ramped up by action such as marches and parliamentary disruption, while a referendum could be held by dissolving Holyrood and using the resulting election as a de facto independence vote.

MacAskill said: “The way to do it is to get the referendum that the people of Scotland were expecting – the one in October of this year, the no ifs, no buts referendum - that can be brought about by collapsing Holyrood and forcing a Holyrood election that should be fought on a mandate not for another referendum, but fought on a mandate for independence for Scotland. We have to do that as time is marching on.”