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Sturgeon to issue update on independence plans within days

UK News | Published:

It comes in the wake of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s refusal to allow a second referendum.

Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon will issue an update on her next steps for independence within days after the Prime Minister’s refusal to allow a second referendum.

A spokesman for the First Minister confirmed she will set out the Scottish Government’s plans next week.

The SNP leader wrote to Boris Johnson days after his victory in last month’s general election, claiming there was a “democratic case” for a fresh vote on the constitution.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejected the SNP’s call for the powers to hold a new independence referendum to be transferred to the Scottish Parliament (Henry Nicholls/PA)

But her call for the powers to hold such a vote to be transferred to Holyrood was flatly rejected by Mr Johnson, who claimed in a letter last week that a second ballot on independence would lead to continued “political stagnation” in Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon, who has previously refused to rule out legal action in a bid to force a second independence vote, said then that the Scottish Government would set out the next steps it will take before the end of January.

The SNP leader has previously said she wants to hold a referendum on Scotland’s place in the UK in the latter part of 2020.

Some figures in the SNP have expressed doubts a ballot will take place this year, with former Scottish justice secretary and East Lothian MP Kenny MacAskilll saying the likelihood of this in the short-term  is “slim” and “more likely nil”.

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A spokesman for Ms Sturgeon said: “The FM will seek to update before the end of the month, as she indicated.”

He said ministers were still “committed” to holding a referendum this year, saying this position had been “endorsed” by voters in the 2019 general election, when the SNP won 47 of the 59 seats up for grabs in Scotland.

The spokesman confirmed: “It will be an update following the Prime Minister’s reply to the First Minister, which was delivered this time last week.

“It will be an update from our side on how we intend to move things forward in light of that reply.”

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Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins said: “The only next step Nicola Sturgeon should be contemplating is taking a divisive referendum re-run off the table altogether.

“The UK Government has provided welcome clarity on this – there will be no legal and binding independence vote in 2020 or the foreseeable future.

“The SNP should accept this and start concentrating on improving the lives and prospects of Scotland’s residents – something it hasn’t prioritised in a decade.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie accused the First Minister of “stoking up” demand for independence at the same time as her Government was failing to deal with problems in education and mental health care.

He said: “Yet again the Scottish Parliament is being used to showcase Nicola Sturgeon’s separatist agenda when it should be discussing how to tackle crises in education and mental health.

“If Nicola Sturgeon wants to her use time stoking up her own activist base, she should go and join a march and leave governing to someone else.

“From the economy to social care, Scotland faces serious challenges ahead.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats are clear that none of these will be solved by wasting more time on another independence referendum.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of the pro-UK campaign group Scotland in Union, said: “Nicola Sturgeon’s next steps should be to abandon a divisive second independence referendum that the people of Scotland don’t want.

“The First Minister should remember she represents everyone in Scotland and her job is to tell Parliament how she will end years of neglect of vital public services like schools and hospitals.

“This Government is simply obsessed with dividing communities. Scotland deserves better.”

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