A FUNDAMENTAL division has already emerged among supporters of Scotland’s new independence party about how to end the Union.

The Alliance for Independence (AFI), which filed registration papers with the Electoral Commission yesterday, says one of its key goals is a second independence referendum.

However one of its most prominent backers, former Socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan, has said there is no point asking for Indyref2 as the UK Tory Government will never grant it.

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Instead, he said that if a majority of pro-independence MSPs is elected at Holyrood next year, it should immediately trigger negotiations on a “withdrawal settlement”.

The outcome should then be put back to the people in 2022. 

The opinion puts him at odds with the Alliance for Independence’s frontman, the former SNP MSP Dave Thompson, who has promoted the AFI’s stated aims and objectives.

These say the goal is to build a single alliance of smaller Yes parties, groups and activists to stand solely on Holyrood's eight regional lists in 2021 to “maximise the number of pro-independence MSPs and minimise the number of Unionists elected”.

This would allow the AFI to “achieve three fundamental objectives: indyref2, if it still has not been held by that time, independence itself, and to support Scotland and the Scottish Government through any independence negotiation process with rUK”.

Beyond that, parties would argue their own policies and vote in Holyrood  according to their conscience.

However the comments from Mr Sheridan, whose Solidarity party has been behind the AFI since its inception, suggest unity may not be so easy.

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Speaking on the new edition of the Through a Scottish Prism podcast, Mr Sheridan made clear that Indyref2 was not his fundamental objective, arguing the UK would refuse to transfer referendum powers to Holyrood via a Section 30 order. 

He said: “It doesn’t matter how polite you are, it doesn’t matter how many elections you win, the Tory majority in Westminster is solid. 

“They will never give us a Section 30 permission for a referendum.

“That means, in my opinion, all of the Indy parties next May... they have it in their manifesto, ‘You vote for us, you’re voting for independence’.

“And if we win a majority, and I’m confident we will, we win a majority of votes at that election, we don’t ask for a referendum, we begin the 12 months negotiation over the withdrawal settlement, and then we put that settlement to the vote in 2022.” 

Mr Sheridan’s position is akin to the ‘Plan B’ for independence which has already caused friction in the SNP.

Promoted by Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil and Inverclyde councillor Chris McEleny, this says an SNP election win should be enough to trigger talks on dissolving the Union.

The idea has been rejected by Nicola Sturgeon, who says it would never be internationally recognised.

The AFI argues that voting for the SNP on the list would be a wasted Yes vote, as the SNP is unlikely to get many top-up MSPs in 2021 because they will win so many constituencies.

In 2016, the SNP won only four of the 56 top-up seats on the lists because they won 59 of the 73 first-past-the-post seats.

However, it tends to gloss over the 16 lists MSPs the SNP won in 2011 which were essential to delivering the first single-party majority at Holyrood and securing the 2014 referendum.

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Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: “This separatist cabal has started infighting before it’s even off the ground. Despite claiming to be united, they can’t even agree on the most basic positions.

“The independence movement is now splitting into different camps and causing more uncertainty and division in the process.

“It’s no wonder Scotland’s domestic agenda has been neglected by the SNP as a result.”

Scottish Labour MP Ian Murray said: “Senior figures in both the SNP and this breakaway nationalist group are fighting among themselves about how to make next year's election all about independence and division.

“They want next year's critical elections to be a referendum on a referendum, or even on declaring independence, when all energy should be on post-covid recovery.

"Just imagine if nationalists devoted as much of their energy to saving people's jobs or protecting our NHS. Labour will focus on what matters to people at next year's election, not constitutional division."

Pamela Nash, chief executive of the Scotland in Union campaign, added: “It is of deep concern that a prominent supporter of this new party is openly stating that if a nationalist government is elected in May it should leave the UK by the back door.

“This election is not a referendum, nor is it a referendum on another referendum.

"People vote for parties to govern on a range of policy issues.

“The majority of people in Scotland want politicians and parties to focus on bringing people together, rebuilding our economy for everyone, and supporting our cherished NHS."