NICOLA Sturgeon is expected to deliver her update next Wednesday on plans to hold an independence referendum later this year.

The First Minister said last week she would “set out her next steps” by the end of the month following Boris Johnson’s rejection of her request to devolve powers to Holyrood to hold a legally binding vote.

A Scottish Government debate on Scotland’s future is scheduled to take place on January 29 in the Scottish Parliament according to its business agenda – suggesting that this is when the FM will give her statement. Brexit - which 62% of Scots voted against in 2016 - will take place two days later.

Earlier this week, the First Minister’s spokesman told journalists it continued to be her intention to have a vote this year as “that is what people voted for”.

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Asked whether she was still planning to hold a referendum this year, after former SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson suggested activists switch their focus to winning a majority in the Scottish Parliament elections in 2020, the spokesman said: “We are committed to what was put forward in the most recent election manifesto weeks ago. That’s what people voted for and it is incumbent on us to try to deliver what people have voted for.”

The First Minister has refused to rule out legal action in a bid to force a second independence vote, but has previously rejected calls for an unofficial referendum amid concerns a win for the independence side would not be recognised internationally and that the ballot could be boycotted by those opposed to independence.

In a BBC interview on Wednesday, she insisted she was considering “all options” but gave no details about what would route she would be undertaking.

Asked if she would pursue an advisory referendum as former health secretary Alex Neil has suggested, she told the broadcaster that she wanted to achieve independence.

“I’m in the business, as somebody who has campaigned for independence all my life, of a process that achieves independence rather than just a gesture,” she answered, “but obviously I am thinking through all options just now and will update when I’ve got to the position of doing that.”

In an interview last week, Neil said bypassing Westminster would be justified if the Lord Advocate ruled such a vote was legal. Asked what the response should be if ministers were told the Scottish Parliament could stage its own referendum, Neil said: “Do it.”

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Neil said he believes it was one of two ideas worth considering. The 2014 independence referendum was organised by Holyrood, but only after the power was temporarily transferred by Westminster.

Neil suggested the Scottish Government should seek a legal opinion on whether Holyrood could organise its own consultative referendum without Westminster’s consent.

It is understood former first minister Alex Salmond sought legal advice on this option during his period in office, but in the end secured a deal with the UK Government.

Neil said the Scottish Government should get a “fresh” legal opinion on Holyrood staging indyref2 – a move he said that would include considering the advice sought by Salmond. He would only support pushing ahead with this option if it was legal.

The MSP also said the SNP should consider starting a constitutional convention on the specific issue of Scotland’s “right to choose” and that Labour politicians who have backed Holyrood’s right to make the final decision on a new independence vote could be included in the body.

Writing in The National last Saturday, Robertson said: “Hard as it is to endure given the repeated electoral mandates for an independence referendum, the reality is that the issue of indyref2 will be decided in the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections.”