NICOLA Sturgeon is expected to set out plans for a second independence referendum when she unveils her programme for government to the Scottish Parliament next week.

The programme for government, which details upcoming legislation, was originally scheduled to be released tomorrow, but was postponed until September 7 because of work finalising the deal with the Scottish Greens.

The First Minister published a draft bill for a new vote shortly before May’s Holyrood election and the commitment to hold a new referendum before 2026 – so long as the pandemic has passed – was a centrepiece in the SNP’s manifesto ahead of the poll.

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The pledge to hold a referendum in the first half of the current parliament is also included in the co-operation agreement signed with the Greens.

“The Scottish Government and Scottish Green Party believe that independence within the EU would provide the best conditions for Scotland, the people who live here, and future generations, to thrive. We will give people a choice about Scotland’s future in this parliamentary session,” the shared policy programme states.

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“The necessity and urgency of independence have been underlined by the Covid pandemic. The full range of powers of an independent country would allow Scotland to put in place a transformational recovery from the pandemic, one which will lead to a fairer and more sustainable and prosperous nation.

“We recognise that a further powerful argument for independence is the undermining and erosion of the devolution settlement and the powers of the Scottish Parliament by the UK Government.”

It adds: “Therefore, we will:

  • Secure a referendum on Scottish independence after the Covid crisis. This would be within the current parliamentary session on a specific date to be determined by the Scottish Parliament. If the Covid crisis has passed, our intention is for the referendum to be within the first half of the five-year parliamentary session

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  • Work together to make the case that Scotland should be an independent country within the European Union, recognising each party’s right and duty to set out its own arguments for, and visions of, independence
  • Protect and enhance the powers and responsibilities of the Scottish Government and Parliament, securing their ability to make decisions in the best interests of Scotland.”

Both co-leaders of the Greens are to be nominated tomorrow in Holyrood as ministers, with the FM due to give a statement earlier in the day on the agreement. Tomorrow has also been earmarked for a debate on the SNP’s first 100 days in government since the election.