Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to set out her thinking on a possible second independence referendum when MSPs return to Holyrood after the Easter break.
She made the vow after some within the SNP insisted the First Minister should use the latest delay to Brexit to “press with everything we have” for a fresh independence ballot – with a member of the party’s ruling national executive calling for a vote to take place in September.
Chris McEleny added that holding a referendum before the UK’s new Brexit deadline of October 31 would “allow the 200k EU nationals who live here to vote in it and allow Scotland to choose its own future with Europe”.
Meanwhile, long-serving SNP MP Angus MacNeil tweeted: “The #Brexit can has been kicked down the road again… we cannot follow suit by kicking the #indyref2 can behind it.”
Ms Sturgeon told Bauer Radio: “I’ll set out my thinking on that after the Easter recess, but I understand the impatience of people who, like me, believe absolutely that the best future for Scotland is to be independent.
“Last night those countries that were deciding the UK’s future, with the UK out of the room, included a dozen countries that have populations smaller than or similar in size to Scotland, and yet Scotland is completely sidelined by Westminster in this whole process.
“Ironically Brexit, which was all about taking back control for Westminster, has actually highlighted how much power small countries have within the European Union, so the case for independence is stronger than it has ever been.”
While the First Minister spoke of her “relief” that the UK will not be “crashing out” of the EU on Friday without a deal, after Theresa May won another extension from European leaders, she called on the PM to use the additional time to stage a second European referendum.
The SNP leader also insisted that talks between the UK Government and Labour over how to resolve the Brexit impasse must be opened up to other parties, and to the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales.
But Ms Sturgeon warned a deal to keep Scotland inside the European single market, allowing the country to benefit from free movement of people, is the “very least” Mrs May will need to offer “if such talks are to stand any chance of success”.
She continued: “Further, and more fundamentally, the Scottish Government considers that any deal agreed by the UK Parliament should be put to another referendum, with the alternative proposition on the ballot paper being to remain in the EU.
“The extension to October 31 provides enough time to do this, and it is essential that no time is lost in making the necessary preparations.”
Scottish Conservative chief whip Maurice Golden said: “Once again Nicola Sturgeon is putting her obsession with a second independence referendum above all else.
“There is no longer any doubt that the SNP’s only goal throughout the entire Brexit process has been to push for indyref2.
“Scots have had enough of it, and the only update they want is to hear that Sturgeon might finally put an end to her continual pursuit for separation.”
Pamela Nash, chief executive of the pro-UK campaign group Scotland in Union, also urged the First Minister to rule out holding another independence vote.
Ms Nash, a former Labour MP, said: “It is deeply irresponsible and reckless to advocate a divisive second independence referendum as early as this autumn.
“With the Brexit deadline extended and further uncertainty for our economy, the very last thing we need is even more constitutional uncertainty.”