IndyRef 2 Details To Be Revealed In 'Weeks'

17 January 2019, 15:21 | Updated: 17 January 2019, 15:23

The Saltire and Union Flag

Nicola Sturgeon has promised to reveal her plans for a second Scottish independence referendum in a "matter of weeks", regardless of what happens with the Brexit deal.

The First Minister met Theresa May on Wednesday following the historic Commons defeat of the Prime Minister's Withdrawal Agreement, and afterwards she said she would soon announce the timing of a second independence vote.

Speaking at First Minister's Questions on Thursday, Ms Sturgeon reiterated her pledge and said: "I think the Prime Minister is very well aware of my views on independence, I support independence and I think the sooner Scotland is independent the better for all of us.

"I think it is essential, given the catastrophe that Scotland faces - to our economy, to our society, to living standards, to prospects for the next generation, to our reputation in the world - that the option of independence must be open to people in Scotland.

"When people in Scotland have the ability to choose independence, I believe that the country will opt to be an independent country."

Pushed on the issue by Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie, who asked whether her plans for indyref2 would be affected by the "inevitable" extension of the Brexit process, Ms Sturgeon said: "Extension of Article 50 is essential now. The Prime Minister has wasted time.

"It seems to me that her tactic has been to run down the clock to hope she can try to panic people into backing her deal - the one that was rejected in a historic defeat in the House of Commons this week.

"There is water to go under the bridge in the next matter of weeks and when it has done so, I will make my views on the timings of a choice on independence clear.

"It is then of course for all of us who support independence to get out there and make the case because I believe that case has been strengthened by what has happened in the last two-and-a-half years, and if we get out and make that case then people in Scotland will choose to be an independent country and we can get on with building a better future than the one offered to us by the chaos and incompetence of Westminster."

The pro-independence Mr Harvie said: "We'd be forgiven for thinking that the country wasn't facing the biggest political crisis for generations.

"Perhaps that tells us something about why a Parliament dominated by those two parties has brought us to a situation in which the word omnishambles sounds like timid understatement.

"I recognise the First Minister's position that extending or revoking Article 50 are necessary and that a people's vote is necessary. These options clearly must be taken.

"But the First Minister has also said for a long time the case for Scottish independence depends on a material change of circumstances.

"Given the level of chaos, there is no single aspect of these circumstances which hasn't changed beyond recognition since 2016."

Ms Sturgeon added she believes support for independence is growing "with every day that passes".

But that claim was rebuffed by Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, who said after FMQs: "These were reckless and ill-advised comments from Nicola Sturgeon, who simply can't accept that the majority of people in Scotland want her to drop her threat of a divisive and unwanted second independence referendum.

"It is not the case that support for independence grows with every day that passes - every single opinion poll in 2018 found majority support for remaining in the UK.

"Brexit has demonstrated how hard it is to leave a political union, and the SNP and Greens should recognise that.

"Whatever your views on Brexit, independence is not the answer and could be eight times as damaging to our economy as the worst-case Brexit. We are better off as part of the UK."

Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie said: "Nicola Sturgeon is threatening the prospect of another unwanted independence referendum when she should be focused on securing a people's vote on Brexit.

"The SNP need to learn the lessons of Brexit. Breaking up is hard to do."