INDYREF2 could happen in the next two years, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.

In her long-awaited independence update, the First Minister told MSPs that the Scottish Government needed to act to save Scotland from Brexit

This, she said, would mean Scots asked to choose between a Britain out of Europe or Scotland as an independent member of the European Union. 

Ministers are to introduce a bill to allow Holyrood to "protect and progress the option for an independence referendum" within the lifetime of this parliament.

This, Sturgeon said, would not immediately need the Section 30 order, the formal process that transfer powers from London to Edinburgh.

READ MORE: The National launches '10,000 Steps' Independence Campaign

That would only be necessary, she added, when the country proceeded "to a vote on independence."

Sturgeon also announced plans for cross-party talks to discuss which powers the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems believe should be transferred to the Scottish Parliament.

READ MORE: Here are the five best quotes from Nicola Sturgeon's indyref2 update

She also announced a proposal to try and establish a Citizens’ Assembly to "bring together a representative cross-section of Scottish society under an independent chair and seek views on how best to equip Scotland’s Parliament for the challenges of the future, in light of Brexit. "

READ: Nicola Sturgeon's indyref2 update speech in full

The First Minister told MSPs: “There is, surely, one point of clarity that has emerged over the last three years - even for the most ardent opponent of Scottish independence.

“The Westminster system of government does not serve Scotland’s interests, and the devolution settlement, in its current form, is now seen to be utterly inadequate to the task of protecting those interests. In other words, the status quo is broken.

“Brexit has exposed a deep democratic deficit at the heart of how Scotland is governed.  And – whatever our different views on independence – it should persuade all of us that we need a more solid foundation on which to build our future as a country.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon's indyref2 update: the key points

“With all of our assets and talents, Scotland should be a thriving and driving force within Europe. Instead we face being forced to the margins - sidelined within a UK that is, itself, increasingly sidelined on the international stage. Independence, by contrast, would allow us to protect our place in Europe.”

Scottish Tory interim leader Jackson Carlaw said Sturgeon's statement was "inherently divisive."

He added: "Astonishingly, the way Nicola Sturgeon thinks we can come together is for Scotland to be plunged into another divisive referendum within the next 18 months.

"That is frankly absurd.

"The SNP's plan is clearly to divide families, workplaces and communities all over again, and for the foreseeable future. That is not what the majority of Scotland wants.

"People have had enough of constitutional politics and division. Yet, with the SNP, more of this is now inevitable."

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard accused Sturgeon of playing to her faithful ahead of the SNP's spring conference this weekend. 

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He added: "Her statement today is not about Brexit, this is about Nicola Sturgeon trying to pacify her party members and back benchers ahead of the SNP's conference.

"The chaos of Brexit throws into sharp relief the challenges of leaving a political and economic union.

"Leaving the UK would lead to unprecedented austerity for Scotland's public services.

"The political dividing line in Scotland is clear: investment with Labour with a focus on fixing our public services and economy or another decade of austerity with the SNP and the Tories with a focus on divisive and destructive nationalism." 

There was support for the First Minister from the Scottish Greens

Alison Johnston, the party's co-leader in Holyrood, said: “The Scottish Greens have always believed that Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands, as an independent nation at the heart of Europe.

"The Brexit shambles has only confirmed our belief that we would be far better governing ourselves. So we welcome the First Minister’s statement today."

Yesterday, a No 10 spokesman said May's stance on the issue of a second Scottish referendum had not changed.