THE SNP’s deputy leader at Westminster has said she has not "heard any particular detail" on the party’s independence strategy.

Mhairi Black, who is standing down as an MP at this election, said she had not been privy to any discussions about the strategy that was voted through overwhelmingly at the party’s conference in October.

The strategy decided upon involves the SNP winning a majority of seats then using the result as a basis to begin negotiations with the UK Government on independence.

But there has been confusion over whether the strategy remains in place for the upcoming General Election given that John Swinney gave no indication as to whether any preparations had begun for negotiations when asked by The National at the party’s campaign launch.

When Black was asked on The National’s Holyrood Weekly podcast whether the SNP were committed to the strategy and whether any discussions about it had taken place in the Westminster group, she said: “So me personally no, I’ve not heard any particular detail on that.”

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When Swinney (below) was asked about progress on the independence strategy, he pointed to the Building a New Scotland independence papers as evidence of the Scottish Government’s work furthering the case.

But it emerged earlier this week that work has been paused because of the General Election.

While Government work considered “essential” and parliamentary business will continue as usual, major set piece events like the Programme for Government will need to be delayed until after polling day. Swinney was also advised to pause the publication of the Building a New Scotland series.

The National: John Swinney

Black went on to stress that Scotland will not achieve independence until a majority want it, but she added that if SNP MPs are not returned to Westminster then the issue will be “off the table for some time”.

She told the podcast: “The reality is Scotland isn’t going to be independent until a majority wants it, when a majority demonstrates that in a very clear fashion.

“If you support independence there is one thing that is guaranteed at this election which is that if the SNP are not sent back in large numbers, independence is going to be off the table for quite some time.

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“You can even hear it in the rhetoric that’s been used for the past five or 10 years from both Labour and Conservative and even LibDem. They have absolutely no interest in even touching the topic of independence and anyone in Scotland will be able to tell you that, as messy as it might seem, the question is not settled.

“We still have half of the country that wants to have the full powers of an independent country and that’s not going to become reality unless there are MPs arguing for it.

“That might seem slow and it might seem like you’re banging your head against a brick wall but it is the reality of where Scotland is. We voted to give that power back so we have to make sure that whenever we achieve our independence it’s got to be with a majority expressing that vote, and it’s got to be legitimate in the eyes of the international community.”

A poll by Survation for True North suggested Scottish Labour could win up to 28 seats at the election while the SNP could plummet to just 16 compared to the 48 won five years ago.  

Support for independence, meanwhile, replicated that of the 2014 referendum, with 45% of decided voters backing it and 55% in favour of staying in the UK.

Black added the SNP have a “fight on their hands” to maintain relevance at the election.

“With the nature of Westminster elections and the first past the post system, it’s quite a cut-throat way of doing things, so even if you don’t get the vast majority of votes there’s no way for you to be heard,” said Black.

“So I think the fight that is on the SNP’s hands is to try and maintain that relevance and say to folk look, if you’re wanting Scotland on the agenda at Westminster, here’s the party that’s best placed to do it.”

The SNP have been approached for comment.

You can hear the full interview with Mhairi Black on a special edition of the Holyrood Weekly podcast out on Thursday, alongside interviews with Greens' co-leader Lorna Slater and Alba general secretary Chris McEleny.