MICHAEL Russell has reiterated his commitment to bringing the Government’s indyref2 bill to Parliament before May’s election.

The Constitution Secretary dismissed claims from the Tories that doing so ahead of the March 25 recess would be “completely irresponsible”.

The bill will set out the timing and potential question for a second independence referendum.

Responding to Scottish Conservative MSP Jeremy Balfour in Parliament, Russell confirmed the Scottish Government “will publish a draft independence Bill as announced in the programme for government, before the election recess begins”.

READ MORE: Michael Russell rejects Tory pleas as indyref2 bill to be set out in days

Balfour claimed ploughing ahead with the plan would be “completely irresponsible” and urged the Constitution Secretary to prioritise the “Covid recovery and getting businesses back on their feet, supporting people into work and investing in our schools to help children catch up with so much lost teaching time”.

Russell insisted his “urgent priority” was recovering from the pandemic, but “that has to be done by what the Scottish people choose rather than what Boris Johnson chooses – that’s the big difference”.

He added: "I would rather rebuild Scotland in a way that’s commensurate with the people of Scotland’s urgent necessities rather than Boris Johnson’s obsessions.”

Scottish Labour’s Colin Smyth asked the SNP minister if he was prioritising the pandemic recovery, why he believed a referendum could be held this year.

The National: Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations Michael Russell delivers his statement in the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, in response to MPs in Westminster overwhelmingly rejecting the Prime Minister's proposed Withdrawal

Russell replied: “The urgent necessity is for Scotland to build forward to give Scotland a sustainable future. That cannot be done by a UK Government and I’m disappointed the Labour Party still believes it can.”

READ MORE: SNP MP says 'once in a generation phrase' misused in indyref2 debate

It came after SNP MP Tommy Sheppard said in the Commons that he would welcome an independence referendum this year, but insisted that a vote would only take place if the pandemic is over.

He told MPs: “Let’s be entirely clear about this, no-one is suggesting that we have a referendum campaign during the pandemic. We will have to have that put behind us and be moving into a recovery phase before that can happen.

“I don’t want to ask people in Scotland about their future through the medium of a computer screen. I want people to be engaged in this debate as friends and as strangers in workplaces, in pubs, in parks. I want them talking about this energised in the way they were in 2014.”