Nicola Sturgeon ‘resets’ indyref2 plans

Nicola Sturgeon has now renewed calls for Holyrood to gain control over immigration. Picture: SWNS
Nicola Sturgeon has now renewed calls for Holyrood to gain control over immigration. Picture: SWNS
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Nicola Sturgeon said today the Scottish government will “reset” the plan on indyref2.

The First Minister has said she remains committed to a second independence referendum but has conceded that the timetable should slip slightly following the SNP’s poor General Election.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. Picture: SWNS

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. Picture: SWNS

The First Minister said she would not introduce her Referendum Bill “immediately” following the loss of 21 SNP seats, but would take stock in autumn next year on how and when to proceed.

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The “reset” of her referendum proposal means that her original plans to hold a vote between Autumn next year and Spring 2019 will be unable to be met.

Ms Sturgeon’s revised timetable is still in line with her ambition to hold indyref2 this parliament, although the vote would require permission from the UK Government through a Section 30 order.

In the meantime, Ms Sturgeon pledged to work to grow the independence movement and influence the Brexit process to protect Scotland’s interests.

Addressing parliament, Ms Sturgeon said: “It remains my view and the position of this government that at the end of the Brexit process the people of Scotland should have a choice about our future direction as a country.

“Indeed the implications of Brexit are so potentially far reaching that as they become clearer I think people will increasingly demand that choice.”

But she added that she wanted to “reassure” people that her proposal was “not for a referendum now” but was to give them a choice at the end of the Brexit process when there was “clarity” about the options.

She said she would “reset” her proposals laid out in March when she said a vote should be held between autumn next year and spring 2019.

“We will not seek to introduce the legislation for an independence referendum immediately,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“Instead, we will - in good faith - redouble our efforts and put our shoulder to the wheel in seeking to influence the Brexit talks in a way that protects Scotland’s interests.

We will seek to build maximum support around the proposals set out in the paper that we published in December - Scotland’s Place in Europe - to keep us in the single market, with substantial new powers for this parliament. We will do everything we can to influence the UK in that direction.

“Then at the end of this period of negotiation with the EU - likely to be around next autumn - when the terms of Brexit will be clearer, we will come back to Parliament to set out our judgment on the best way forward at that time, including our view on the precise time-scale for offering people a choice over the country’s future.”

How the other parties reacted

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson called on Ms Sturgeon to “give the country some certainty” by taking the Referendum Bill off the table for the rest of this parliament.

She said: “Yes voters and No voters, most people simply don’t want this brought back any time soon and none of the questions - none of the questions - that are raised by Brexit are answered by ripping Scotland out of our own union of nations, our biggest market and our closest friends.

“I’m afraid to say that that statement will fail to give an assurance to those people that this First Minister is listening to them.

“Again, she makes virtually no mention of her domestic responsibilities.

“Instead she appears to be in denial about her mistakes over this last year and, as a result, is leaking credibility and confidence in her leadership by the hour.

“Her response actually hasn’t been to reflect but to simply lash out at the UK Government at every opportunity and to sing the same old songs in the same old tune.”

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale urged Ms Sturgeon to “get on with the job that really matters - improving our schools, growing our economy and fixing our NHS”.

She said: “The First Minister says she has heard the views of the people, that she’s reflected on the result of the general election, and her incredulous conclusion is to double down and continue with her campaign for independence.

“The truth is the threat of an unwanted second independence referendum is dead and this didn’t happen because Nicola Sturgeon wanted it to, the people of Scotland have taken that decision for her.

“The First Minister is digging her heels in, putting her fingers in her ears and pressing on regardless. She is just not listening.

“First Minister, why don’t you understand the people of Scotland sent you a clear message at the general election - get back to governing.”

The Scottish Greens urged the First Minister not to retreat from her referendum timetable.

Co-convener Patrick Harvie said: “Scotland has not consented to being taken out of the European Union against our will.

“Scotland has not consented to the social and economic wreckage which we know will result if that happens.

“If the First Minister does not introduce a referendum bill until after autumn next year, how long will it be after we’ve been dragged out of Europe without having consented to it before the people of Scotland are even entitled to make their choice?

“Why after a negotiation between a UK Government and EU institutions, and decisions made by every other member state in Europe, why should the people of Scotland be the only people without the right to make a decision on that timescale?”

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said “absolutely nothing has changed” in Ms Sturgeon’s approach.

“If she wants to prove she has listened, the First Minister should trigger a vote in this chamber which would rule out another independence referendum in this parliamentary term,” he said.