Nicola Sturgeon has called for a second independence referendum to take place before the next elections to the Scottish Parliament, which are due to take place in 2021.
The First Minister’s long-awaited statement (she had promised in January to give an update ‘within weeks’) has reignited the debate about Scotland’s constitutional future even as the UK struggles to extricate itself from the European Union.
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs: “A choice between Brexit and a future for Scotland as an independent European nation should be offered in the lifetime of this Parliament.
“I can confirm that the Scottish Government will act to ensure that the option of giving people a choice on independence later in this term of Parliament is progressed.”
Politicians from across the political spectrum were quick to react the First Minister’s statement, which was billed by her advisers beforehand as an attempt to build consensus in Holyrood.
Tory MSP Adam Tomkins tweeted: “Sturgeon: ‘the status quo is broken’. Yes indeed; the SNP is the status quo in Scotland, they’ve been in power for 12 long years. And the solution is to kick them out of power at the next Scottish election. Which we will.
He added: “Sturgeon: there is ‘a deep democratic deficit at the heart of how Scotland is governed’. True, and it’s caused by Nationalists and their addiction to ignoring referendum results.”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “Nicola Sturgeon is using her office as First Minister to put the interests of the SNP before the interests of our country.
“Her statement today is not about Brexit, this is about Nicola Sturgeon trying to pacify her party members and back benchers ahead of the SNP’s conference.”
SNP MP Stewart McDonald posted: “A bold statement from @NicolaSturgeon this afternoon. Brexit represents a perversion of devolution. In contrast, we must call Scotland to its highest values by bringing our fellow citizens with us with dignity and respect, and we will secure our place as an equal European nation.”
Former Labour leader Iain Gray observed: “This First Minsiter statement on brexit and indyref2 is falling very flat with the snp backbenches.”
Ross Thomson, the Conservative MP, said: “Incredible hearing Nicola Sturgeon talk about bringing people in Scotland together by plunging us into another, unwanted, divisive referendum.
Now Parliamentary time will be wasted on #IndyRef2 legislation rather than on improving education.”
Senior SNP MP Joanna Cherry wrote: “Delighted to hear @theSNP leader & @ScotGovFM @NicolaSturgeon announce legislation to facilitate #indyref2 in the lifetime of current @ScotParl & adopt my #CitizensAssembly proposals to build policy consensus #Brexit.”