‘SNP may be forced to make indyref2 call in early 2018’

A pro-independence supporter outside the SNP conference. Picture: John Devlin
A pro-independence supporter outside the SNP conference. Picture: John Devlin
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The First Minister could be forced to make a decision on a second independence referendum much earlier than planned, a Scottish EU expert has claimed.

Earlier this year, Nicola Sturgeon called for another separation vote to be held in the autumn of 2018 or the spring of 2019, but after June’s election, where the nationalists lost 21 MPs, she put the timing on hold until the terms of Brexit become clearer.

Dr Kirsty Hughes. Picture: Scottish Parliament

Dr Kirsty Hughes. Picture: Scottish Parliament

However, Dr Kirsty Hughes, the director of the Scottish Centre for European Relations and a former European Commission official, wrote in The National, the “hard or chaotic” Brexit being pursued by the UK Government may mean the SNP leader no longer has the luxury of waiting another year.

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She wrote: “If, by early 2018, it’s increasingly clear the UK faces a chaotic ‘no deal’ Brexit or at best a damaging hard Brexit deal, and economic conditions deteriorate further, the SNP may face some tough choices.

“As the damaging reality of Brexit hits home, it’s possible public opinion in Scotland might shift on independence. Currently, a hard or chaotic Brexit looks both most likely to happen and most likely to bring a second independence referendum back on the agenda.”

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Dr Hughes also warned independence supporters that they would need to make the case for a hard border between England and Scotland.

“This will not make the pro-independence arguments any easier,” she wrtoe. “And hopes of mirroring any Northern Ireland deal look slight.”

Nicola Sturgeon has insisted she still has a mandate to hold indyref2 before the next Holyrood election in 2021.

Last week, the SNP leader said she stands by statements she made earlier in the year when she said a new poll on separation was “highly likely”.