Nicola Sturgeon: No independence referendum 'immediately'

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen

Plans for a second Scottish independence referendum have been put on hold until the terms of Brexit are clearer, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.

The First Minister had said in March she wanted to give Scots a second chance to vote on leaving the UK some time between the autumn of 2018 and the spring 2019.

But she told MSPs at Holyrood: "We will not seek to introduce the legislation for an independence referendum immediately."

Ms Sturgeon had been due to give a speech on Brexit to the Association of British Insurers in London but her appearance was cancelled on Tuesday morning.

Her statement follows reports at the weekend suggesting she is to put her demand for a second independence referendum on hold to instead focus on delivering a "soft Brexit".

The First Minister set out her timetable for a second referendum in March, saying a vote should be held between autumn 2018 and spring 2019 to give Scots - the majority of whom voted to stay in the EU - an alternative to Brexit.

But she has been "reflecting" on the plan after the snap General Election saw her party's share of the vote fall from 50% to 37% as it lost 21 Westminster seats.

The issue was discussed at the Scottish Government cabinet meeting last week, with Ms Sturgeon said to be "likely" to set out her position before Holyrood goes into recess on Thursday.

She stressed today the Scottish Government's mandate to call a fresh referendum within the current Parliamentary term was "beyond doubt", but added "deciding how and when to exercise it is a matter of judgement".

Her statement also follow confirmation of a deal between the Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on Monday.

The agreement, which will see the DUP back Theresa May's minority government in key votes, includes £1 billion in new funding for Northern Ireland.

Though Mrs May has managed to create a minority government, many have said Conservative losses in the election showed voter disapproval with her plans for a hard Brexit and suggest she may now soften her stance.

Ruth Davidson said Ms Sturgeon 'appears to be in denial about her mistakes'. Credit: PA

The other main Scottish parties have said that the SNP should scrap plans for a fresh independence vote for the foreseeable future.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson called on Ms Sturgeon to "give the country some certainty" by taking the Referendum Bill off the table for the rest of this parliament.

"Most people simply don't want this brought back any time soon," she said.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale urged Ms Sturgeon to "get on with the job that really matters - improving our schools, growing our economy and fixing our NHS".

But the Scottish Greens urged the First Minister not to retreat from her referendum timetable, saying the country had not backed Brexit.

Co-convener Patrick Harvie said: "If the First Minister does not introduce a referendum bill until after autumn next year, how long will it be after we've been dragged out of Europe without having consented to it before the people of Scotland are even entitled to make their choice?"