THE Scottish Greens have said they will include a commitment to an independence referendum in their manifesto for the 2021 election as they welcomed Nicola Sturgeon’s promise to hold a new vote in the early part of the next Scottish Parliament.

Patrick Harvie, the party’s co-convener, gave a positive response to the First Minister’s promise which she made in her closing speech to the SNP conference yesterday afternoon.

The SNP leader made the announcement as she addressed voters watching her conference speech: “Next May we will ask you, the people of Scotland, to put your trust in us to continue that task of building a better country.

“I will ask you to judge us on our record and endorse our plans for the future. And in that election, I will seek your authority – no-one else’s – for a legal independence referendum to be held in the early part of the new parliament.”

Harvie responded: “The Scottish people are the only people who can determine their future, and it is right to say that they alone will decide when and whether there is an independence referendum.

“Scotland has the right to resume its place as an independent European nation, and the Scottish Greens will go into May’s election committing to a referendum. Our MSPs will be crucial to establishing a pro-independence majority.”

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said the First Minister is “completely out of touch” over her push for a second independence referendum and accused her of “grandstanding” over putting the campaign for one on hold at the start of the pandemic.

“She grandstanded about putting ‘independence on hold’, which would be a lot more believable if she didn’t launch a new Referendum Bill in September as a second wave of Covid was beginning,” he said.

“And all weekend she’s been talking up another divisive referendum next year while we’re in the middle of a pandemic. It’s completely out of touch with people across Scotland.

“Over the years a litany of SNP conference promises have flopped – from the Scottish Growth Scheme to the infamous Sturgeon Energy Company – so I sincerely hope these new commitments materialise but I don’t have much faith that they actually will.”

Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour’s shadow constitution minister, said a second independence referendum was the First Minister’s top priority as he also hit out: “Nobody should now be in any doubt – Nicola Sturgeon’s only priority is to further divide our nation at a time when we should be healing,” he said.

“Her obsession with independence – mentioning it over 20 times in her speech – is shameful when people are losing their lives and livelihoods.

“On the UK stage she pretends that she has paused the independence campaign to focus on the pandemic, but the truth is that indyref2 remains her top priority.

“We can’t come straight out of a pandemic and go straight into a divisive referendum. Instead we should be pulling our people together and rebuilding our economy, protecting jobs, fixing our education system and delivering an NHS that never again has to choose between fighting a virus or treating cancer.”

Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie also attacked the First Minister’s announcement on a second independence referendum.

“The First Minister has put independence first,” he said.

“Everything else that needs to be done in Scotland, the mammoth task of recovery in front of us, all of that will have to wait for years in the queue behind another referendum.

“People who need urgent NHS care, who’s future depends on our education system getting back to being the best in the world or who are counting down the days for mental health support on long wait lists can’t afford to wait years or endure more division.

“What the people of Scotland need in this period of intense uncertainty is a focus on recovery, not referendums.”

During her address, the First Minister put forward the case that independent countries of a similar size to Scotland were among the wealthiest and happiest in the world.

“If Denmark can be a successful independent country, why not Scotland? If Ireland can and Norway can, why not Scotland? We have the resources, the wealth and the talent.” she said, insisting Westminster cannot veto Scotland’s “inalienable right of self-determination”.