JOHN Swinney has defended the decision to ditch Humza Yousaf’s plan to have the word independence on the ballot paper at the General Election.

The First Minister said: “The Scottish National Party is what I need people to vote for and that's what's going to be on the ballot paper.”

At the party’s conference last October, members backed a motion which said the SNP would seek to add the words “Independence for Scotland” alongside its name and logo on the ballot paper, to make it “clear beyond doubt” to voters that this is its primary purpose at the election.

In April, they received permission from the Electoral Commission to use both “Scottish National Party – For Scottish Independence” and “SNP – For Scottish Independence”.

They were also given authorisation to use two new logos, both of which included the party's symbol above the letters SNP.

One then had the word “independence”, while the other had “for independence”.

The National:

However, on Friday when nominations closed and each of Scotland’s 32 local authorities published their notice of polls, only the party’s name was used.

'Hoist the white flag'

That led to criticism from former first minister Alex Salmond, who said his former colleagues had “hoist the white flag on independence.”

Speaking to The Herald over the weekend, Swinney said the SNP's manifesto would be “very focused on addressing the real issues that affect people's lives”.

He added that austerity, Brexit, and the cost of living had “been foisted on Scotland by Westminster".

“And the answer to them is independence," he said. "So you will see the argument for independence loud and clear, in the manifesto but made relevant to the issues that people are concerned about today.

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“That's the way independence has got to be argued for, not in an abstract concept, but by saying to people if you're concerned about your circumstances just now and I've heard lots of unease from people about the situation they're facing and their livelihoods and the cost of living, and I’m saying to them the answer to that is to allow us to make decisions in Scotland.

“What history tells us is decisions made in Scotland are decisions for Scotland, and that's the strength of our politics.”

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Asked about the decision not to include the word independence in the description on the ballot paper, Swinney (above) said: “Independence is central to the message and the campaign of the SNP.

“And the Scottish National Party is what I need people to vote for and that's what's going to be on the ballot paper.

“And the Scottish National Party is the party of independence and it’ll all be there in front of people."

Alba prediction

Speaking to the BBC's Sunday Show, Salmond, who formed the Alba Party in 2021, accused the SNP of “trying to avoid the constitutional issue”.

He said: “If the SNP wants to compete to win an election, they have to make sure that independence is the key issue of the election.

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“They might do very well as they have done in a number of elections, or they might just do quite well, but unless you make independence and the constitution the defining issue of the campaign, you will lose.”

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Salmond (above) added that a loss of the election for the SNP would see pro-independence voters make a “substantial and early transfer” to Alba.

Shortly after becoming First Minister, Swinney made clear he supported the party's strategy for achieving independence, which was backed by SNP members last year. 

That states that if the SNP win a majority of seats at the General Election then the Scottish Government will be "empowered to begin immediate negotiations with the UK Government to give democratic effect to Scotland becoming an independent country".

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Swinney told the BBC: “The SNP will go into that election on a manifesto which will say on page one, line one: ‘Vote SNP for Scotland to become an independent country.’

“Between now and then there is a crucial job for the SNP: to show the people of Scotland that winning independence is not separate from their top concerns.”