PREPARATIONS for a second independence referendum have been mentioned in the Scottish budget.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes announced on Thursday that income tax rates will remain the same through the next financial year and lifted the freeze on council tax.

However, under the portfolio for Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, there was a nod to planning for indyref2.

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The constitution brief is headed by Angus Robertson MSP and has been allocated £349.5 million overall for the parliamentary term 2021-22.

On the cover page for the portfolio which sets out the department’s responsibilities, the budget states that part of its brief is to ensure Scotland remains a “valued and well-connected nation”.

The document continues: “We will continue to demonstrate our commitment to EU values, our alignment with EU policy priorities, and make the necessary preparations for a Scottish referendum and subsequently for re-joining the EU as an independent member state.”

The National:

The nod to indyref2 was in the portfolio for Robertson's department in this year's budget

The exact amount of funding, if any, allocated to these preparations was not explicitly stated in the budget.

Of the Constitution department’s budget for the next parliamentary term, £176.6m has been allocated to culture and events, £30.6m to external affairs, £55.9m to Historic Environment Scotland, £63.3m to National Records of Scotland, and £23.1m for Covid-19 funding.

We previously told how preparations for a second referendum were put on hold because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A number of civil servants who had been tasked with creating new white papers ahead of a second vote were seconded to different departments during the height of the crisis.

In September, the First Minister told MSPs that she had ordered civil servants to restart their work on the prospectus.

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Sturgeon made the announcement as part of the first SNP-Green Programme for Government.

We told in October how Alba leader Alex Salmond said the Scottish Government preparations for independence are “paralysed on the starting blocks”.

Two Freedom of Information requests indicated no budget had been allocated, no estimates of cost had been made, and no briefings given to civil servants on how to move forward with the new white papers.