Nicola Sturgeon has revealed she is to request the transfer of power from Westminster which would allow Holyrood to stage a referendum on Scottish independence.
The First Minister told MSPs she is to “seek agreement” from the UK Government during the course of the Referendums (Scotland) bill which would pave the way for such a vote to be held. The legislation is currently being scrutinised by MSPs.
“We intend to offer the people of Scotland a choice of a better and more positive future as an independent nation,” she said in Parliament today.
The SNP leader was setting out her Programme for Government at Holyrood as MSPs returned from their Summer break.
Westminster has control over the constitution and it would require a transfer of power - through a Section 30 order - to allow a second referendum to be held. This has been rejected so far by the Tory Government.
But Ms Sturgeon said: “The Referendums (Scotland) Bill, introduced before recess, is about to resume its Parliamentary progress
“I can confirm today that during the passage of the Bill we will seek agreement to the transfer of power that will put the referendum beyond legal challenge.
“We have a clear democratic mandate to offer the choice of independence within this term of Parliament and we intend to do so.”
The Bill is expected to be passed before the end of the year which would mean a request being lodged in the coming weeks. The First Minister has previously said she could hold a referendum late next year.
Ms Sturgeon warned that the issue will be at the heart of the looming general election, expected to be held next month.
“Let me be crystal clear today, the SNP will put Scotland’s opposition to Brexit and our right to choose independence at the very heart of that contest.”
The move by cross-party opposition and Tory rebels to block a No Deal Brexit in the Commons was also backed by the SNP leader..
“Given the anti-democratic move last week by Boris Johnson to shut down Parliament, it is absolutely vital that this effort succeeds,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“SNP MPs will do everything possible to stop the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal. Scotland did not vote for any form of Brexit and having a catastrophic No Deal imposed upon us is completely and utterly unacceptable.”
But Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, slammed the prospect of another referendum
“This is an irresponsible and reckless threat from Nicola Sturgeon,” she said.
“The very last thing that Scotland needs at a time of constitutional crisis is more constitutional chaos.
“This is a stark reminder that the SNP never seeks to bring people together; only to divide people and make communities poorer.
“The First Minister should drop the threat of a divisive independence referendum and honour her promise that the 2014 referendum was a ‘once-in-a-generation’ contest.
“We are stronger together as part of the UK, pooling and sharing resources to grow our economy and protect public services, and keeping the pound.”