The SNP leader will make a “detailed and substantive” address to MSPs on Wednesday afternoon on Scotland’s future in light of the Brexit turmoil and set out her thinking on the staging of a second independence referendum, which she has pledged to hold.
It comes ahead of the SNP conference this weekend when the party will step up its campaign for a second vote on leaving the UK, by adopting a new flagship economic policy that would see an independent Scotland adopt a stand-alone currency after a Yes vote.
But pro-union parties have called for an end to the constitutional wrangling.
Tory interim leader Jackson Carlaw said: “Nicola Sturgeon said she wanted to be judged on education, yet here we see her passing up the opportunity to talk about that very subject.
“Instead, she’s returning to her real priority, her plan for a divisive second referendum on independence.
“The only reason this statement is happening at all is because Nicola Sturgeon put a second independence referendum back on the table following the EU vote.
“And she has obsessed about it ever since.”
Ms Sturgeon’s address will last half an hour and the SNP leader will then take a further hour of questions from MSPs.
“The First Minister will give a detailed and substantive statement, setting out a path forward for Scotland amid the ongoing Brexit confusion at Westminster,” a spokesman for the SNP leader said.
“The First Minister will take time to set out her thoughts on that front and, in doing so, she will seek to strike an inclusive tone.”
He added: “It will cover the situation in respect of Brexit, where things have reached in recent weeks and months. Looking forward it will obviously touch on Scotland’s future, it will touch obviously on her thoughts on independence and how that relates to where the country currently finds itself.”
Asked what Theresa May’s response would be if Nicola Sturgeon used the speech to call for a Section 30 order to pave the way for a second independence referendum, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a regular Westminster media briefing: “You know the Prime Minister’s position on that and it has not changed.” Polling still suggests most Scots oppose independence and a second referendum.
Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “Nicola Sturgeon can produce no evidence that the people of Scotland want another independence referendum.”
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “The First Minister should take independence off the table, show the country she’s learnt lessons from the chaos of the last two-and-a-half years and put businesses’ minds at ease.”
But Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie called on Ms Sturgeon to use the mandate she has for a second referendum when MSPs at Holyrood voted for it in 2017.
Mr Harvie said: “The Scottish Greens stand ready to campaign hard for an independent Scotland in the EU.”