NICOLA Sturgeon last week set out the next steps on indyref2 after the rejection of a Section 30 order by Boris Johnson.

The First Minister has said she is “considering all options”, with the intention to still hold a vote this year.

But with the UK Government ramping up the rhetoric on ruling out another independence referendum for years, the question of how it will be achieved remains unclear.

Here we examine some of the possible routes which could be taken and how successful they might be.

Continue to press for a section 30 order

THE First Minister has previously made it clear she intends to get a Section 30 order to hold a referendum and ensure its result is seen as legitimate.

While the most recent request has been rejected, continuing to press for one while building support for independence and gathering cross-party backing for another referendum could add pressure on the UK Government to change their decision.

Senior figures in Scottish Labour have recently urged the party to support the right for Scotland to choose its own future.

Dr William McDougall, a lecturer in politics at Glasgow Caledonian University, said he expected Sturgeon’s announcement may be about trying to push for a Section 30 order and cross-party support.

He said: “There is also an issue here about being caught up in processes – you have to be trying to persuade people that if you do hold a referendum they can actually win it.

“They might announce something around that too to try and keep people on board and build support.

“What they are trying to do at the moment is they are hoping they can put pressure on by the polls shifting to an extent.

“So that the other side may think this is starting to backfire on us by not allowing this to take place.”

Dr Kirsty Hughes, of the Scottish Centre on European Relations, said persuading a UK Government that had “made its position clear” and shifting the political dynamics would be difficult and multifaceted.

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She said: “We are all still waiting on the first post-election poll on independence to come out.

“The question is, will it show a majority for independence – as that is one key component of making a compelling argument.

“If there is and it stays – and it depends on how big it is as well – I think it will impact on the political conversations and dialogue.

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She added: “But that doesn’t again mean a Conservative Government in London is going to respond to potentially Scottish Labour as well as the SNP saying there should be another independence referendum.

“However, it changes the dialogue and it changes the dynamics.”

Holding a referendum without a section 30 order

FORMER SNP minister Alex Neil recently called for Holyrood to hold its own “consultative vote” on independence.

He argued that if it was judged legal, it would force the hand of Westminster and rejected suggestions opponents would boycott any such vote.

However, Hughes pointed out the wider implications of holding such a referendum would also have to be considered.

“If it’s an advisory route that is legally contested, there isn’t agreement with London, you are going to have a fairly tricky response to the European Union from that,” she said. “You have still got a fairly positive if carefully neutral attitude from the EU, in terms of governments and institutions.

“But anything that starts to look contested or anything that makes people in Brussels think this looks more like Catalonia than like Scotland in 2014, will be tricky in terms of that sort of European response and that seems to me quite important for the context of wherever it goes next.”

She added: “I suppose if you were in a situation where opinion had gone to 60% Yes and all options seemed blocked – that would be one way in the future to show it by doing something that was advisory but not agreed.

“But I think it is not really the route to go.”

McDougall said holding a referendum without the permission of the UK Government would leave questions over gaining sufficient support to demonstrate there was a majority in favour.

He said: “The problem the Catalans had is they were never able to demonstrate they had over 50% of the population in favour of the measures they were putting forward.

“If you escalate, what happens if the other side still says no? In that way, it makes sense for the SNP not to be pursuing those options, it perhaps makes sense that you would hint you might.”

He said if there was a majority in a referendum, there would then be the issue of what action would result from that.

“Unless you are going to go down that route and actually follow through on things, it is best not to do it,” he said.

“You can hint at it, you can have ministers suggesting there is other options they might be going down to try and put some pressure on.

“But actually coming out and announcing that is a completely different thing altogether.”

Legal challenge to Westminster’s refusal to grant an Article 50

THE First Minister has previously refused to rule out the possibility of taking legal action following a rejection of a Section 30 order.

While there is no legal duty on the UK Government to grant a Section 30 order, the matter could potentially be tested in court for the first time.

Recent legal cases triggered over Brexit – for example, over the prorogation of Parliament – have successfully challenged the UK Government over its decisions.

Aidan O’Neill QC, who was involved in that case, has also said the Scotland Act could allow for the Scottish Parliament to legislate for indyref2, although it would need to be tested in court.

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Jess Sargeant, researcher at think tank The Institute of Government, said: “The Scottish Government has never actually formally conceded that an independence referendum is a reserved matter.

“There is still that argument that you could say while the Union is a reserved matter, holding an advisory referendum isn’t actually making policy on the Union – it is just holding a vote.

“So there is a legal argument to be tested there as to whether an independence referendum falls within that competence or not.”

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However, Sargeant said legal precedents, such as the Miller case which forced the Government to seek Parliament’s approval to trigger Article 50, had placed emphasis on what the ultimate intention was.

“From what we have seen previously it is quite likely the court might say the Scottish Government is holding a referendum with the intention of becoming an independent country, that is reserved and therefore they can’t do that without the say-so of Westminster,” she added.

McDougall said with many politicians from a legal background it would “make sense” to try to find some way through the courts.

But he added: “The UK Parliament considers itself sovereign after Brexit, so if you do win some legal argument or technicality then Westminster could just pass a piece of legislation to override it.

“If you are trying to get more than 50% of people, which is the aim of the SNP, you actually want to be able to not just hold a referendum but win it.

“So getting bogged down in legal technicalities – how much are people really going to engage with that?

“So that would be one, I think. It is quite risky, as it becomes quite drawn out and dry and it is not really engaging.”

Delaying a referendum until the 2021 Holyrood elections

THE SNP’s insistence they are continuing to push for indyref2 this year has been met with scepticism from many, including from within the party.

SNP MP Kenny MacAskill recently said the likelihood was “nil”, while SNP veteran Jim Sillars said it would be “sheer madness” to continue pursuing a referendum this year.

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With Holyrood elections set to take place in 2021, a renewed pro-independence majority would place added pressure on the UK Government.

Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack recently said victory in the 2021 Scottish elections would not give the SNP a mandate to hold indyref2, in a U-turn on comments he made last year.

But Sargeant said the Holyrood elections could be used as a “key test” for a mandate.

She said: “I do think politically it would be a lot harder for the UK Government to make the argument the Scottish people didn’t want another referendum if that was clearly expressed in the 2021 election.

“From my perspective, I would think that would be the best route, but obviously there might be some impatience from within the SNP and certainly there is pressure from the grassroots to take action rather than just waiting around.”

Hughes said having a sustained majority for Yes would be a crucial part of adding pressure for another vote to take place – but it would need more discussion of what an independent Scotland would look like.

She said: “Most people can’t imagine something is going to happen this year, maybe we will be surprised.

“But assuming it is going to take somewhat longer and, of course there are elections next year, you have got to have a discussion about the substance. With Brexit going ahead, that sharpens the questions around what would independence in the EU look like.”

A double referendum

ANOTHER potential scenario is that a referendum could be held in order to decide whether to hold an independence referendum.

Sargeant said this may be more likely to get past any legal test as it is “much further removed” from implementing independence.

However, the biggest barrier could be the negative reaction from voters to the prospect of having another two polls to add to the round of referendums and elections which have taken place in recent years.

Sargeant said: “Even though that referendum may result in 60% saying we would like to have a referendum, that doesn’t guarantee the Section 30 order would be granted.

“It would ramp up the pressure, but considering it is a slightly unusual tactic, it might be easier for the Government to dismiss as an opinion poll sort of thing.”

McDougall said it was reminiscent of a much-criticised plan for two referendums put forward by Scottish Labour over devolution.

He added: “They were completely slated for it and within a week had to do a U-turn and withdraw it and go back and meet again and come back with something else. I think that is what would happen to that.

“I can see why someone would suggest it as a way to get out of it, but it becomes problematic.”