Nicola Sturgeon has announced plans for a second Scottish independence referendum on October 19 2023, despite political opponents calling it a “pretend poll”.
The vote’s legality will be determined by the Supreme Court in order to settle the argument about the Scottish Government’s right to hold a referendum, she said.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has said his party will not participate in an illegal referendum.
Opposition MSPs have told the First Minister to stop putting the “priorities of Scots on the backburner” with the independence “obsession”.
It follows Ms Sturgeon’s ministerial statement to MSPs where she emphasised plans for an “indisputably lawful” referendum to take place.
In the event the court rules the proposals are outside of the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament, the next general election will become “de facto referendum”, she said.
The Scottish Government requires a Section 30 order to legally hold a referendum – but Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made clear this is not going to be granted.
Ms Sturgeon said a judicial determination will prevent doubt being cast on the legal basis for a referendum.
The Lord Advocate, Dorothy Bain, the Scottish Government’s chief legal officer, had referred the matter to the Supreme Court.
“The process for serving the requisite paperwork on the UK Government by lawyers and messengers at arms in underway.
“And I can confirm that the referendum will be filed with the supreme court this afternoon.”
She continued: “If it does transpire that there is no lawful way for this Parliament to give the people of Scotland the choice of independence in a referendum and if the UK Government continues to deny a Section 30 order, my party will face the UK general election on this single question: should Scotland be an independent country?”
But Mr Ross said the First Minister’s “selfish obsession” with another “divisive” referendum has taken precedence over issues such as the cost-of-living crisis and NHS waiting times.
“A potentially illegal referendum next year is the wrong priority for Scotland,” he said.
He added: “We won’t play Nicola Sturgeon’s games. We won’t take part in a pretend poll when there is real work to be done.
“Real work on the global cost-of-living crisis, real work to invest in public services, real work to rebuild our economy.
“Those are our priorities and they’re the priorities of people across Scotland as well.
“But instead of focusing on the right priorities, Nicola Sturgeon is rail-roading this parliament into talking about the SNP’s obsession.
“On the First Minister’s watch, this is becoming a do-nothing Parliament.”
In response, Ms Sturgeon said Mr Ross may be a “do-nothing MSP but this is certainly a do-much Parliament”.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the First Minister’s timing was wrong in launching the campaign since the Covid-19 pandemic was still causing people to lose their lives.
And people were told to vote SNP, he said, on the promise of prioritising pandemic recovery.
He said: “For households across Scotland, it doesn’t feel like this crisis is over.
“Isn’t it the case that the pandemic Nicola that said she wanted us to pull us through is gone and the partisan Nicola Sturgeon that wants to divide our country is back, pursuing a referendum that two-thirds of Scots don’t want right now.”
Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Alex Cole-Hamilton asked Ms Sturgeon why her “fixation with breaking up the United Kingdom will always trump the needs of the people in the country”.