Sturgeon: indyref2 likely set for late 2020 but ‘options open’

Nicola Sturgeon has said she expects a second referendum on Scottish independence to take place next year.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

And the First Minister also appeared to hint she will push for a second vote on independence even if the UK remains part of the European Union.

Ms Sturgeon said “many people” would agree Westminster’s treatment of Scotland during the Brexit process marked the “material change in circumstances” that would be necessary for the SNP to have a mandate for such a vote.

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Poll: Only 1 in 5 Scots want 2021 indyref2 vote

She spoke out after announcing to MSPs that the Scottish Government will “shortly” bring forward legislation to lay down the rules for a possible second independence referendum.

Ms Sturgeon insisted in her Holyrood statement that if Brexit does go ahead, there should be another vote on Scotland’s place in the current Parliament – and yesterday she hinted it would be late next year.

“I would have thought some time … probably in the latter half of next year,” Ms Sturgeon said when quizzed on the timing in a TV interview.

The SNP’s 2016 election manifesto made clear another referendum should be held if there was to be a “material change in circumstances” from the original ballot in 2014. It cited Scotland being removed the from EU against its will, and the Brexit vote did see a majority of Scots vote to Remain, while the weight of votes south of the Border swung the result in favour of Leave.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Many people would say there has been a big material change of circumstances in the way Scotland has been treated over the past few years.”

If Remainers do manage to halt Brexit, she said she would give her views then on what should happen next.

However, the SNP leader stated: “We could be facing the prospect of Boris Johnson as prime minister in a matter of months. I’m not going to start to narrow Scotland’s options.

“The important thing over this next period, with such fundamental change happening in the UK that is not in Scotland’s interests, is that Scotland has maximum options to chart its own way forward.”

She was also adamant her government had a mandate for a fresh referendum before the next Scottish elections.

She said: “The last Holyrood election, which the SNP won with a record vote share, in that manifesto we said … there would be a choice of another independence referendum if there was a material change of circumstances such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.

“That is exactly the scenario we are in.”

Ms Sturgeon has insisted a majority of people in Scotland want a referendum on independence at some point in future, although polls have indicated just one in five back her proposed timescale.

“My job is to explain to people why I think it would be a mistake to wait too long and allow the damage to be done to us,” she added.