NICOLA Sturgeon has hit the “reset” button on a second independence referendum, telling MSPs that the vote would come when there was “clarity” on how Brexit would affect Scotland.

In a statement to Holyrood, the First Minister said despite having an undeniable mandate to start the process for giving Scots a vote on the constitution, her government would “not seek to introduce the legislation for an independence referendum immediately.”

Instead, the SNP leader said she would come back to Parliament when the terms of Brexit were known, likely to be next autumn, and set out the Government’s “view on the precise timescale for offering people a choice over the country’s future”.

Loading article content

It was effectively more of holding than a shelving.

The National:

Opposition MSPs, who had been expecting a U-turn, were incredulous, heckling as Sturgeon spoke. The First Minister made clear that independence was very much still on the table.

“It remains my view, and indeed the position of this government, that at the end of the Brexit process, the people of Scotland should have a choice about our future direction as a country. Indeed, the implications of Brexit are so potentially far-reaching that as they become clearer, I think people will increasingly demand that choice.”

She also made clear that the SNP’s victory in 2016 with a manifesto commitment to hold another vote if there was “a material change of circumstances from September 2014 – such as Scotland being removed from the EU against its wishes”, along with the the Scottish Parliament vote in favour of requesting a Section 30 order, and her party winning the majority of MPs in this month’s election, gave her the permission of people to push for a vote.

“By any normal standard of democracy, that mandate is beyond question,” Sturgeon insisted.

But the SNP leader said she had spoken to hundreds of people “before, during and since the election campaign” and she had been struck by “the commonality of their views”.

The National:

“They worry about the uncertainty of Brexit and the lack of any clarity about what it means. Some just want a break from the pressure of making big political decisions,” she added.

Sturgeon insisted that her government would “in good faith – redouble our efforts and put our shoulder to the wheel in seeking to influence the Brexit talks in a way that protects Scotland’s interests”.

“We will seek to build maximum support around the proposals set out in the paper that we published in December – Scotland’s Place in Europe – to keep us in the single market, with substantial new powers for this Parliament. We will do everything we can to influence the UK in that direction.”

There was also a commitment to involve the SNP more in the wider Yes movement with Sturgeon saying the process of the “when and how of a referendum” had been “at the expense of setting out the many reasons why Scotland should be independent”.

“The fact is we are only talking of another referendum so soon after the last one because of Brexit.

“But the case for an independent Scotland is not just about Brexit – it goes far beyond that. Many of us already believe that independence is the right and best answer to the many, complex challenges we face as a country – and also the best way to seize and fully realise our many opportunities.

“But we must persuade the majority in Scotland of that. We have not done that yet – but I have no doubt that we can. So the challenge for all of us who believe that Scotland should be independent is to get on with the hard work of making and winning that case – on all of its merits – and in a way that is relevant to the changes, challenges, hopes and opportunities we face now and in the years ahead.

“That is what we will do. We won’t do it on our own – because the independence case is bigger than us too.

The National:

“My party will engage openly and inclusively with, and work as part of, the wider independence movement. We will seek to support, engage and grow the movement, and build the case that having decisions made by us – not for us – offers the best future for Scotland. We will make, and seek to win, the case that governing ourselves is the best way to tackle the challenges we face as country – from building a better balanced and more sustainable economy, to growing our population, strengthening our democracy, and tackling deep-seated problems of poverty and inequality.”

Seconds after the First Minister sat down, the SNP launched a new website, mobilise.scot, free of any party branding, it encouraged visitors to “join the movement” and “build a better Scotland” and donate cash on a monthly basis.

Sturgeon also promised a government rejuvenation of sorts, saying that after 10 years, she would “take stock and refresh”.

“We will set out afresh our vision for the country we lead, together with the creative, imaginative, bold and radical policies that, as far as is possible within the current powers available to us, will help us realise that vision.”