Nicola Sturgeon challenged over the timing of second independence vote

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon has said she must wait to find out what unfolds at Westminster over the “next few weeks” before considering the timing of a second independence referendum.

As the UK Government became engulfed in fresh turmoil over its proposed Brexit deal, the first minister was challenged by Scottish Greens leader Patrick Harvie to state that she is “ready to start that campaign” for another vote on Scotland going it alone.

But the SNP leader insisted that voters in Scotland “deserve clarity about what else might unfold over the next period” before the “precise timing” of a second independence referendum can be set out.

She suggested the prospect of another UK general election or Brexit referendum must be resolved before it can be considered.

At first minister’s questions, Ms Sturgeon also piled the pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May over her controversial Brexit proposals.

“Scotland faces being taken out of the European Union against our democratic wishes, Scotland faces being taken out of the single market against our economic wishes, and now we face being put at a competitive disadvantage to Northern Ireland.

“That’s what the Tories are presiding over,” she said.

And Ms Sturgeon demanded urgent talks with UK ministers, while  Brexit Secretary Michael Russell later said that the Scottish Government would ask MSPs to vote on the proposed deal before it is considered by Westminster.

Scottish Conservative interim leader Jackson Carlaw called on the first minister to rule out another independence vote, however.

“We need a first minister acting for all of Scotland, isn’t it time she acted in the national interest, not the nationalist interest?” he asked.

“With everything that is going on will she now take her threat of a second independence referendum, and all the disruption that could cause, off the table?”

Responding to Mr Harvie, the first minister said: “The case for independence, which I have long thought has been made, has got stronger every day over the past two years.

“In terms of the precise timing of Scotland having that opportunity to choose, people deserve clarity about what else might unfold over the next period.

“Are we going to have another general election? Is there going to be a second EU referendum? It is reasonable to wait and allow that to play out over the next few weeks.”

Mr Carlaw later said: “The last thing the people of Scotland want is more division and uncertainty. Yet the first minister is using Brexit developments to do exactly that.”