Senior civil servant Martin Johnson, the director of the Scottish Government’s EU directorate, made the comments in a meeting with an unknown individual, likely to be an official within the European Commission.
The minutes of the meeting, held on September 26, state the unknown individual was told “ministers were still taking decision on substance and choreography” around the Scottish Government’s push for an independence referendum.
Mr Johnson added: “I also updated on the process around the reference to the SC [Supreme Court]. I emphasised that any route, including Plan C around using the next GE as a ‘de-facto’ referendum, would be legal and legitimate. There were no circumstances in which Scottish ministers would depart from that.”
This confirms the fact the First Minister did not want to go down the route of a ‘de-facto’ referendum, and appears to rule out a Holyrood election as the scenario for one, a position repeated by SNP depute leader Keith Brown.
Plan A is likely to mean the UK Government agreeing a Section 30 order for a repeat of the 2014 poll, with Plan B likely to be an advisory referendum legislated for by Holyrood.
In an earlier meeting with another unknown individual, Mr Johnson stated ministers said their “clear view” was that a referendum would “need to be legally and constitutionally sound, and internationally recognised”.
He said ministers believed an independent Scotland would be “well placed” to move through the accession process to join the EU “relatively quickly”.
Alex Cole-Hamilton, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said the minutes confirmed “what we knew all along”. He said: “’Plan C’ is tenuous and a last-ditch attempt to separate Scotland from the UK, instead of pulling together and addressing the crises facing people right now.”