NICOLA Sturgeon has hosted a series of top level meetings as part of preparations for a second independence referendum, reports say.

The Scottish Sun reports that officials confirmed the First Minister held three meetings between November 2021 and early February 2022, but no minutes of the discussions were made available.

The FM, Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson held talks with civil servants and advisers where they discussed the “approach to the development and delivery” of new independence white papers.

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They also discussed which topics to include in the document.

Officials have reportedly refused to release any other details, suggesting it would “impact the forumulation of government policy”.

The newspaper reports that the FM held top level meetings on November 24 2021, and January 14 and February 3 2022.

The National: Sturgeon and Swinney held three top level meetings with civil servantsSturgeon and Swinney held three top level meetings with civil servants

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has criticised the revelations - by claiming the FM has taken her “eye off the ball”.

He added: “She’s not focused on the day job and that’s why we see scandal after scandal over ferries, drug deaths, school standards, A&E waiting times and just about everything else.”

But a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “People in Scotland voted last May to elect a Scottish Parliament which has a clear majority in favour of holding an independence referendum.

“In line with that democratic mandate the Programme for Government stated that the Scottish Government would start work on a detailed prospectus for an independent Scotland. 

"If the people of Scotland choose independence, 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.”

The FM has consistently said that she intends for a second independence referendum to be held in 2023.

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The white paper, which the above meetings reportedly discussed, should be published before the next vote, but no date has been set for publication.

There has also been no hard date confirmed as to when the Referendum Bill, the legislation that would allow a vote to go ahead, will be laid before Holyrood.

There could also be issues ahead if the legislation is referred to the Supreme Court, if UK law officers think it may lay outside of the parliament’s legislative competence.

The National: The meetings held by the FM were part of indyref2 planningThe meetings held by the FM were part of indyref2 planning

A similar issue occurred last year after the parliament voted to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also repeatedly rejected the idea of allowing a second independence vote to go ahead, along with the possibility of granting a Section 30 order.

And, we previously told how House of Commons researchers have concluded that the row over a second independence referendum could end up in court – as it’s not clear whether or not MPs can block a second vote.

It comes after it was revealed last week that one senior civil servant and 14 other officials are working on the independence blueprint.