The SNP’s Depute Leader has said it is “unfortunate” different parts of the independence movement attack each other after a spat between the party and a prominent activist group.
All Under One Banner (AUOB) – which has organised some of the most substantial pro-separation marches and rallies in recent years – accused the party of being “contemptuous” on Sunday after it emerged a special convention on independence would be held on the same day as one of their events.
The delayed conference was originally due to be held in March, but was postponed following the resignation of Nicola Sturgeon.
Over the weekend, the SNP announced it would take place on June 24 – the same day as an AUOB march in Stirling.
In a tweet the group said: “We wrote to Humza inviting him to speak at Stirling 24 June, and received a weird reply – swiftly followed by news that he’s chosen to clash with the national demonstration by holding an SNP conference on the same day.
“Why? Reactionary and contemptuous. De facto anti-YES behaviour.”
But speaking to BBC Radio Scotland on Monday, Keith Brown said: “I think it’s unfortunate when parts of the Yes movement have that kind of go at each other, to be honest.
“I’ve attended any number of AUOB marches, have spoken at many of them indeed, and in this case this is the last week before the summer recess, this is the date which the SNP need to have its discussion on.”
Mr Brown went on to say there should be “different activities” held across the Yes movement, adding: “There’s nothing wrong with the SNP, its members, demanding and having the opportunity to discuss a strategy for the way forward for independence and the next Westminster election.”
The former Scottish Government minister added that the SNP was “perfectly entitled” to discuss its strategy on independence, saying: “We’re not going to achieve independence without a wider Yes movement, just as the wider Yes movement won’t achieve it without the SNP.”
His deputy Mr Brown, challenged on the strength of such a move on Monday – with the possibility of the UK Government simply refusing to engage after a majority win for the SNP – said: “That has to be put to the UK Government, why do they want to deny democracy?”
He added: “It’s the UK Government that is acting peculiarly, wrongly and in my view like a rogue state.
“We are trying to find a democratic route through to express the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland, as they’ve endorsed in repeated elections.”
Scottish Tory constitution spokesman Donald Cameron said Mr Brown sounded “increasingly desperate”, adding: “Describing the United Kingdom as a rogue state and reaching for French Polynesia as somewhere to compare to simply will not wash with the vast majority of Scots who do not want to see another divisive referendum take place.
“He is whipping up his rhetoric because he knows that breaking up the United Kingdom is the only thing his divided party still agree on.”
Scottish Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie said: “There is no special conference on helping the one in seven Scots on a waiting list, no special conference on getting islanders the ferries that have never arrived, no special conference on cleaning up the sewage in our rivers and waterways.
“The SNP are increasingly out of touch.”
Alex Salmond – who led the SNP for two decades before taking the reins of the Alba Party – hit out at his former party and its plans for an independence convention, claiming such an event should “be a broad and inclusive political and civic gathering of the independence movement”.
“To have any impact at all it clearly has to reach beyond any one political party,” he added.
“The SNP is entitled to have its own meetings to sort out its own policy but not to suggest it can represent an entire movement.
“That much is obvious particularly at a time when backing for the SNP is faltering but independence support is riding high.”