PLANS for a second independence referendum – including when it will be held – are to be unveiled in the next six months, Nicola Sturgeon has revealed.

The First Minister announced that her proposals will be published in the current Holyrood session which ends in March. She added that the arguments in favour of independence would be presented to voters at next May’s election.

SNP politicians immediately welcomed the development, pointing out it will mean that voters will head to the polls next spring knowing specific proposals are in place for a new referendum.

One told The National the precise nature of the mandate being sought would heap pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to refuse to hand over powers to Holyrood for a legally binding vote.

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Setting out her Programme for Government in Holyrood yesterday, the First Minister said: “Before the end of this parliament, we will publish a draft bill setting out the proposed terms and timing of an independence referendum, as well as the proposed question that people will be asked in that referendum.

“And then at next year’s election, we will make the case for Scotland to become an independent country and seek a clear endorsement of Scotland’s right to choose our own future.”

She revealed the independence referendum plans after setting out a string of measures she would be announcing if Scotland was already independent – including extending the furlough scheme and a migration system to encourage people to move to Scotland, as well as introducing a Universal Basic Income.

Brexit – and the way in which it is being implemented – immeasurably strengthens the case for Scotland becoming an independent country, with the ability to shape our own destiny and contribute positively to the world,” she said to cheers from the SNP backbenches.

“If this was a Programme for Government in an independent Scotland, it wouldn’t have to contemplate the damage of Brexit. Instead it could set out even more far-reaching plans. “Plans for – an immediate extension of the Job Retention Scheme – not a plea for another government to do so. The greater use of borrowing powers to further stimulate the economy, transformation of our national grid to support faster development of renewables, a migration system that welcomes talent at all levels and supports people to make Scotland their home.

“A Universal Basic Income and a social security system geared wholly, not just partially, to lifting households out of poverty.”

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Joanna Cherry, the SNP MP for Edinburgh South West and the party’s justice and home affairs spokeswoman at Westminster, wrote on Twitter: “Delighted that as well as important job creation measures, and measures to tackle current crisis, @theSNP @scotgov [Programme for Government] promises draft #indyref2 bill with terms, timing and question before [the] end of this session.”

Richard Lyle, one of 13 SNP MSPs to date who has announced he will be standing down in March, tweeted: “Excellent, I joined the SNP in 1966 and I have supported our aim for Scotland’s independence since then and I now look forward to supporting. I’m sure opposition parties will again say we are “too wee, too poor”. I say bring it on!!!!!”

Chris McEleny, a former SNP deputy leadership candidate who is hoping to stand as the party’s candidate for Greenock and Inverclyde next year, also welcomed the First Minister’s announcement on the draft bill.

McEleny has been calling for the Scottish Government to set out and pursue an alternative Plan B to counter Johnson’s refusal to agree to a Section 30 order. Former prime minister David Cameron agreed to a Section 30 order ahead of the 2014 referendum.

McEleny said: “The past months have shown that when we can make decisions ourselves we can make decisions better suited for Scotland as opposed to those imposed upon us by Boris Johnson and the UK Government.

“The people of Scotland must have their right to self-determination respected. If the SNP set out when we will hold a referendum, and what the question will be, and the people of Scotland overwhelming endorse that, then it will be completely illegitimate for Boris Johnson to deny the outcome of our Scottish Parliament election.”