Nicola Sturgeon says legislative timetable for Scottish independence referendum to be decided in 'coming weeks'

Nicola Sturgeon has said the legislative timetable for a second independence referendum will be decided in the "coming weeks".

The First Minister insisted steps will be taken to facilitate another vote taking place before the end of 2023.

She said she was determined to "give people in Scotland the choice over our future" now that the country is on the "downward slope" of the Omicron wave.

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Appearing on the BBC's Sunday Morning show, Ms Sturgeon was asked when legislation for a referendum would be tabled in Holyrood.

She said: "The preparatory work on that is underway right now.

"We haven't decided on the date that we would seek to introduce the Bill. We will decide that in the coming weeks.

"But what I have said, and I will happily say again to you right now, is that my intention is to take the steps that will facilitate a referendum happening before the end of 2023.

"That's the proposition that just short of a year ago I fought an election on and was re-elected as First Minister. My party was re-elected with a historically high share of the vote.

"This is about democracy. It's about allowing the people of Scotland to choose our own future."

She added: "I make no apology for the fact that over the past two years, as First Minister, I have prioritised steering the country through a pandemic."

Ms Sturgeon said she was determined to offer Scots a choice over their future and she believed they would choose independence.

She said: "I am determined, I won an election on this basis, to give people in Scotland the choice over our future.

"I believe when that choice comes people will choose an independent future.

"The preparatory work for that is underway and we'll determine the precise date for introducing that legislation in due course.

"We are hopefully on the downward slope of this wave of Omicron, which clears the way for us to do that.

"The key thing is that we will take these steps in a timescale that will facilitate that referendum before the end of 2023, which is the commitment I made at the election and was elected on, overwhelmingly."

Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly said her preference is for another independence vote to be held before the end of 2023.

However, the UK Government had made clear it will not agree to another vote, paving the way for a constitutional clash that could end up in the courts.

At the SNP’s annual conference last year, Ms Sturgeon insisted the campaign for independence would resume "in earnest" this spring.

She also said her party would set out its fresh case for leaving the UK, outlining the "opportunities and advantages", but also the "challenges".

Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser accused the First Minister of throwing “caution to the wind when it comes to her obsession with another divisive independence referendum”.

He said: "It's reckless to try and split up the country when there's an economic crisis facing working people and businesses. But as we know well by now, Nicola Sturgeon' s first, last and only real priority is independence.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of pro-UK campaign group Scotland in Union, said Ms Sturgeon was “completely out of touch with the priorities of the people of Scotland”.

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