Nicola Sturgeon wants second independence referendum early in next parliament

The First Minister of Scotland has said she hopes to hold Indyref2 in the early part of the next Parliament.

In an interview on Thursday evening, Nicola Sturgeon would not be drawn on a precise date for another referendum but did not rule out putting Scotland’s constitutional future to the vote next year after the May 2021 election.

Speaking on ITV’s Representing Border programme, Ms Sturgeon said: “I think the referendum should, for a whole variety of reasons, be in the earlier part of the next parliament.

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“I intend to say more about this before the election in our manifesto, but we are still in a global pandemic that I feel a bit more hopeful about seeing the end of than I did even just a couple of months ago.”

Ms Sturgeon said she is a “lifelong” and “passionate” supporter of an independent Scotland but would not confirm an exact date while she has a duty as First Minister of Scotland to protect the country from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

She added: “If people in Scotland vote for a referendum, there will be a referendum.

“Across the Atlantic, even Trump is having to concede the outcome of a fair and free democratic election.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said another referendum was “the last thing Scotland needs”.

Nicola Sturgeon has made further comments on Scotland's second independence referendum picture: PA

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie added: “On the day the SNP government is questioned on its inability to keep care homes safe, we find the First Minister had been spending time planning a referendum.

“We need a government that’s focused needle-sharp on recovery from this crisis.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, branded Ms Sturgeon’s latest comments “reckless”.

She said: “This is reckless talk from the First Minister.

“It will take years for our health service and economy to recover from the pandemic, and that will have to be the entire focus for the Scottish Government for the next few years.

“Seeking to divide us with another referendum is the wrong priority, and it is not the priority of the people of Scotland.

“Rather than trying to tear us apart, the SNP should focus on uniting us.”

Ms Sturgeon is expected to set out a time frame for Indyref2 before the May 2021 Holyrood election.

The SNP’s annual national conference is due to take place this weekend, from Saturday 28 to Monday 30 November.

The topic of delivering independence, up for discussion on Sunday, will dominate the conference agenda.

Ian Blackford, leader of the Scottish National Party at Westminster and MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, will address the conference at 10.35am on Sunday ahead of the Indyref2 discussion.

Constitution Secretary Michael Russell said last week that “ambition and democracy” is driving the SNP’s push to potentially hold a second independence referendum in 2021.

Questioned on the issue by Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser, Mr Russell said the Scottish Government was “solidly focused” on tackling Covid-19, but that independence, if secured in a referendum next year, would allow Scotland to “rebuild better”.

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