The first minister has confirmed work will restart on a second independence referendum with the aim of delivering it by the end of 2023.
Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs preparations would begin to deliver a “detailed prospectus” outlining how an independent Scotland would work.
However, the SNP leader said this can only happen if the country has emerged from the coronavirus pandemic.
Introducing her government’s legislative agenda for the year ahead and beyond, Ms Sturgeon committed to the creation of a National Care Service.
The first minister also confirmed her government would introduce the controversial Gender Recognition Reform Bill in the next year and pledged to “do everything possible” to secure a ‘Glasgow Agreement’ from COP26 in November.
‘Case for independence is strong’
Addressing MSPs on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon said the mandate for a second referendum was “beyond question”.
She confirmed that – Covid-19 permitting – her government intends to deliver a second independence before the end of 2023.
Ms Sturgeon added: “To that end, I can confirm that the Scottish Government will now restart work on the detailed prospectus that will guide the decision.
“The case for independence is strong and we will present it openly, frankly and with confidence.”
‘Programme for independence’
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross described Ms Sturgeon’s plan as a “programme for independence and not a programme for government”.
He accused her government of putting “independence above Scottish jobs”.
He added: “This government should be pouring every single bit of time and effort into our economy, into tackling drugs deaths and into remobilising our NHS.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar claimed the plan was a “tired and rehashed programme from a party that has clearly run out of big ideas”.
He added: “We are up against a global pandemic, a growing healthcare crisis, a jobs crisis and a climate emergency – there is no time to waste.
“And this may surprise the first minister but there are ideas bigger than independence.”
Main promises in programme for government:
- Scottish Government to start “detailed” work on a second independence referendum.
- Launch of NHS Recovery Plan backed by more than £1 billion of targeted investment.
- Creation of a National Care Service.
- Inroduce the Gender Reform Bill.
- Provide wraparound childcare for low-income families.
- Push to secure a ‘Glasgow Agreement’ from COP26 summit in November.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton also criticised the SNP for pursuing a second Scottish independence referendum.
He said: “Independence will starve everything else of oxygen when people need parliament to set aside the battles of the past and work together.”
Gender Recognition Reform Bill
The first minister confirmed her government will introduce the Gender Recognition Reform Bill in the coming year, which has previously raised concerns from some women’s rights campaigners.
The proposed changes would allow trans people to receive legal recognition through self-identifying as a man or woman without a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.
Speaking in parliament, the SNP leader said she understands there are “sincerely held concerns” around the legislation.
However, she claimed the changes would not remove any of the legal protections that women currently have.
Ms Sturgeon said: “It will make the existing process of gender recognition less degrading, intrusive and traumatic.”
The move towards net zero, and away from fossil fuels, was also included within the programme for government – including a previously anounced 10-year £500 million Just Transition Fund for the north-east and Moray.
The first minister described the climate emergency as a “moral and economic imperative”, as the country looks towards COP26 in Glasgow in November.
To this end, the first minister said the Scottish Government will do “everything possible to support the success of the summit and secure a Glasgow Agreement that allows us to look future generations in the eye”.
Some of the new bills contained in the programme for government:
- National Care Service Bill: Already trailed, this follows deep concerns about the care system during the pandemic and could put it on a par with the NHS.
- Fox Control Bill: Strengthens the laws on hunting with dogs.
- Gender Recognition Bill: A controversial subject which attracted a demonstration at Holyrood last week. It aims to allow self-ID for trans gender people.
- Miners’ Strike Pardon Bill: A long campaign led to this proposal relating to the strikes of 1984-85.
- Fireworks and Pyrotechnics Bill: Restricts the sale and use of fireworks across Scotland, while adding powers for the police to stop and search.